AFL: Harrison Himmelberg will debut for GWS Giants against the Brisbane Lions
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AFL: Harrison Himmelberg will debut for GWS Giants against the Brisbane Lions

Former Eastlake key forward Harrison Himmelberg will make his AFL debut this Sunday for Greater Western Sydney against the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba as a defender.

The 20-year-old was selected at No.16 in the draft last year but has been forced to earn his position given the quality of experienced defenders, including Joel Patfull and skipper Phil Davis.

Former Eastlake key forward Harrison Himmelberg will make his AFL debut this Sunday.

Former Eastlake key forward Harrison Himmelberg will make his AFL debut this Sunday.Credit:Melissa Adams

But the youngster's strong form in the NEAFL, with the highlight being his round-11 best on ground in the one-point win over the previously undefeated Sydney Swans, has impressed with his ability to read the ball as well as his strong marking and clean foot skills.

The seventh-placed Giants are just two wins behind ladder leaders Hawthorn and will be eager to bounce back from their shock loss to Collingwood last weekend.

The side's elite midfield will particularly be seething from the loss, and the hard-running stars such as Dylan Shiel, Callan Ward, and Stephen Coniglio will likely provide plenty of support for the debutant down back.

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At 194cm and 87kg, Himmelberg has turned into a defender since arriving at the Giants and is likely to match up on fellow rookie Eric Hipwood at some stage, who at 200cm has kicked eight goals in three games since his debut in round 13.

And while no AFL game is easy, the Lions have lost 11 consecutive matches, including six of their past seven at home by an average of 65 points, as pressure mounts on coach Justin Leppitsch.

​Dayne Zorko has been one of the only Lions to perform consistently this season, and he said reports of a breakdown between players and coach are "just rumours".

"We can totally dismiss that. We've got a lot of trust and a lot of belief in Leppa and he's doing a really great job at the moment," he said.

"Unless you're inside the four walls you don't really understand what really goes on. These rumours started to happen at this time last year as well but I can dismiss that right now ... things are as strong as they've ever been at the club. The playing group stands right behind Leppa, even the senior players."

Zorko admitted that given their results, there should be some level of unrest among the playing group, and there was – but it wasn't directed at Leppitsch, who he said had improved his communication skills since the arrival of player welfare manager Craig Lambert over the summer.

"He's got a clear game plan he wants us to deliver on the weekend. At the moment, as players, we're letting him down."

Himmelberg moved to Canberra to join the Giants academy after completing his schooling in Wagga, and he will join former Belconnen midfielder Jack Steele in the starting side.

– With AAP