Recruit of the year? Why this discarded Demon is feeling the love at GWS
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All a footballer really wants – aside from winning – is to feel wanted. To feel like not just another body in boots for a coach to boss around, but an important cog in a bigger machine.
Toby Bedford reckons he was getting some of that at Melbourne, but actions speak louder than words. And so do numbers: over four seasons on their senior list, he played just 18 games.
Toby Bedford is feeling the love at the Giants.Credit: AFL Photos
Since arriving at the Giants at the start of the year, he has played 17, and only missed the others due to injury and suspension. Number 18 will come on Saturday night, when the surging ‘Orange Tsunami’ laps at the famous old gates of Adelaide Oval for their semi-final against Port Adelaide.
The Giants can’t believe their luck. And nor can Bedford, who they landed in exchange for a third-round draft pick.
“It’s a bargain buy,” said teammate Brent Daniels, the Giants’ other dynamic small forward. “I think he’s been the best recruit of the year, by far, for any club.
“To be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about him before he got here. But looking back on it now, you’re thinking, ‘How wasn’t he getting a game?’ The things he’s done with us have been unbelievable.”
Stephen Coniglio and Toby Bedford of the Giants celebrate during the Round 24 match against CarltonCredit: AFL Photos
GWS had been speaking to Bedford’s management early last season, aware they would more than likely be trading out Bobby Hill at the end of it. The 23-year-old was flattered by the interest, but determined to first do everything he could to work his way into Simon Goodwin’s team at the Demons.
“When I couldn’t do that, that’s when those conversations got pretty serious,” he said.
“They were really good to me, they let me play out my childhood dream. But it’s pretty hard to break into that team. I definitely felt valued at Melbourne, but to come here and know that they really, really value me here … the coaches and the boys got around me from day one.”
There was no better demonstration of this than the last fortnight, as the Giants pulled out all the stops to overturn Bedford’s one-match suspension for rough conduct on Zac Fisher in their round 24 clash with Carlton.
“It was a rollercoaster, it definitely was,” he said.
“For a lot of the week I didn’t think I was playing. We went through tribunal thinking we had a pretty good case, and then they knocked us back – and then the board and everyone decided to take it to appeal, which I’m pretty thankful for. It’s a pretty hard thing to go and win, and it’s a big financial risk for the club.
“To get the result was just the best feeling ever.”
What followed was arguably Bedford’s best game for the Giants: two goals, seven score involvements, four tackles and three clearances, which repaid the faith the club put in him.
Neither he nor Daniels were in the team the last time GWS faced Port Adelaide a month ago, when they lost by 51 points.
“They might actually be our most valuable players, in terms of when they’re out, how different are side looks, and what they provide to our team,” said star midfielder Tom Green.
“We did miss them sorely when we Port Adelaide last time, and I think that it’ll be fantastic having them. And I think on the weekend sort of justified why we fought so hard to get Toby Bedford off – he was just phenomenal on the weekend in such a big and important game.
“They are both super pivotal to us. And it’s really exciting that we’re going to be going over this time with them both.”
This time, they reckon, will be different.
“Speaking to everyone this week, since we won, they all wanted Port. Everyone wanted the rematch, everyone wants this for redemption, to really prove to them that they didn’t play us when we were at full strength – we were nowhere near our best,” Bedford said.
“We’ll be going in there for a full war.”
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