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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

The Western Sydney Giants have signed former Carlton fullback Stephen Silvagni as the club's list manager. Silvagni will play a key role in putting together the team list ahead of their 2012 entry into the AFL. Silvagni has been an assistant coach with St. Kilda for the past four seasons. Silvagni sees the challenge as a different role to what he has been doing and as an  "... appealing opportunity. .. to help build a new team." He admitted it is a personal risk although the concessions from the AFL will help. Success is not a given and the club will have to make the most of those concessions and draft opportunities. Silvagni will spend most of his time in Melbourne with stints in Sydney. He said that most football managers were based in Melbourne and it would be the best place for him for the time being. He will begin his new role in January.

Giants' football operations manager Graeme Allan, also working out of Melbourne, said the club was thrilled to have Silvagni and that his experience and understanding of what was required to build a strong list would be crucial. He pointed out that Silvagni had served at St Kilda during one of the most successful periods in their history and believes that experience, as well as being a premiership player with Carlton, gives him the insights needed to help develop a  "... culture of success. "

Silvagni is regarded as one of the best fullbacks of all time, having gone up against some of the best forwards in AFL history such as Wayne Carey, Jason Dunstall, Tony Lockett, and Gary Ablett Sr. He debuted for Carlton in 1985 and played 312 games. He played in Carlton's 1987 and 1995 Premierships, won Carlton's best and fairest award in 1990 and 1996, was named All-Australian in 1988, 1990, 1994-1997, 1999 and represented Victoria in 11 games. In 1996, part of the AFL's centenary celebrations was the naming of a Team of the Century. Silvagni was the only current player at that time to be named in that team in the fullback position.

His father, Sergio, played 239 games for Carlton (including the famous come-from-behind win over arch-rival Collingwood in the 1970 Grand Final), placing the duo second on the AFL's all-time list for total games played by father and son (551 games combined). Topping that list is current Essendon defender Dustin Fletcher (328) and his father Ken (264).

Just a few days after the signing of Silvagni, a coaching partnership was reunited with former Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams signing a three year contract as Kevin Sheedy's assistant at the Giants. The deal has been in the works since Williams departed Port Adelaide just ahead of Round 15. Sheedy said he had always wanted Williams at his side as his senior assistant. Williams said that, even while he was still at Port, the idea of working with a new young team sounded exciting. Williams, who had been an assistant under Sheedy at Essendon as well as an assistant under John Cahill at Port when they entered the AFL, believes his experience of bringing through and developing young players such as Matthew Lloyd, Scott Lucas, Warren Tredrea and the Cornes brothers, will be of great value at his new club. He said, "It's a great experience ... to see their progression, their inconsistency, their anxiety ... dealing with a new environment."

Williams also has the experience of playing with a struggling club as he finished his career at the Brisbane Bears after playing for Collingwood. He said the AFL had realized the mistakes they made in establishing Brisbane by introducing the concessions granted to the Gold Coast and the Giants. When asked about eventually taking over as senior coach, he told reporters he had no problem playing second fiddle to Sheedy, saying the two understood each other, had a great friendship and a long history. He also made it clear that Sheedy is the boss and that he will do whatever is required of him. He added that the team will be in good hands when Sheedy is not present. Williams had previously interviewed for the Essendon coaching job which went to favorite son James Hird. Williams said the hardest part about leaving Port was not being able to coach and teach, which he said he loved doing and is thrilled to be able to do so again.

Sheedy said Williams was  "... exceptionally talented ... with a wealth of experience" pointing out that he took Port to two Grand Finals and one Premiership in his eleven years as senior coach. As such, Sheedy said that securing Williams, Stephen Silvagni, Craig Lambert and former Essendon conditioning coach John Quinn was needed in order to build a strong club as well as developing the game in NSW. He further stated he wanted to make sure he had the best and most talented in the business. Lambert played 123 games 1988-1993 for Richmond and 96 for Brisbane 1994-2000. He later served as an assistant coach and player welfare officer with the Lions. John Quinn was Essendon's fitness coach 1999-2008 before establishing his own high performance and sports rehabilitation business.

On the other side of town, former Swans' player Jared Crouch has returned to the club as assistant coach of  Sydney's reserves team. He will work with the recently retired Henry Playfair. He will also work closely with fellow former Swan Stuart Maxfield, the club's development manager. Crouch played 258 games for Sydney 1998-2008. After his retirement, he returned to his native South Australia and began his own wine business. Coach John Longmire described Crouch as a "... fantastic Swans' person ... very passionate about the club and keen to help the next generation ...".

Source: themercury.com.au, theaustralain.com, afl.com.au, theage.com.au, sportsnewsfirst.com.au, Encyclopedia of League Footballers; Jess Ries, GWS Club Media Release; AFL Record 2010 Season Guide

Article last changed on Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - 1:48 AM EST


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