WA boy Zac Langdon earns GWS Giants’ respect

Shayne HopeThe West Australian
VideoSource: AFL

Zac Langdon concedes he wasn’t always the greatest student growing up in WA’s North West.

Rather than focusing solely on his studies, the young St Kilda fan was sometimes more interested in skipping school to tag along with his helicopter pilot father, Darren.

“I wouldn’t recommend it, it looks pretty tricky but back in the day I was allowed in the choppers,” Langdon said.

“I used to miss a bit of primary school to fake sickies and go to work with him.”

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Fortunately, the occasional truancy hasn’t continued into his fledgling AFL career at Greater Western Sydney.

The 22-year-old, who Giants coach Leon Cameron says has an insatiable appetite to improve his football IQ, is already reaping the benefits of a work ethic that initially surprised his new club after it took a punt on him with pick 56 at last year’s national draft.

Langdon’s name won’t instantly ring a bell with most AFL fans.

He is a long way off matching family friend and former West Coast champion Dean Cox as Dampier’s most famous football export.

But the hard-as-nails small forward, picked up after two WAFL seasons and 25 league games with Claremont, has quickly built a reputation for himself at the WestConnex Centre.

“Every club has a player or two that you might take middle or late in the draft and you’re confident (in that player’s ability) but you’re still waiting to see it,” Cameron said.

“Zac surprised us over pre-season. He’s got a huge engine, a great work rate and like a number of 22 or 23-year-olds at other clubs, he’s had to do it a little bit harder.

“He probably thought he’d been overlooked (by AFL clubs), so his determination is through the roof and he’s got a great appetite to learn.

“Even when he doesn’t have the best of games, his pressure acts still remain the same.

“He’s got full-on intensity and we’re really rapt to have him.

“He’s made a huge impact in six months of being at our club.”

Langdon had been relatively consistent without providing huge contributions in each of his first seven matches before producing a breakout performance in a gritty victory over Adelaide last round.

His tallies of three goals, 13 disposals, seven contested possessions, seven uncontested, eight tackles and two inside 50s were all career-best statistics in a telling contribution to the Giants’ first win at Adelaide Oval.

And they were generated despite Langdon playing just 69 per cent of game time — less than all bar two of his teammates.

The third of his goals — an important one at a crucial stage of the final quarter — earned him a goal-of-the-year nomination.

Langdon picked up the ball on the half-volley under pressure, turned and burnt off three opponents to give the Giants breathing space with just minutes remaining and silence the usually raucous Adelaide crowd.

It was the sort of display that also would have earned Langdon a Rising Star nomination had he been eligible.

Alas, the first-year player is a year too old.

It was not the first time Langdon has showed class beyond his experience.

Against West Coast in round eight, the 177cm forward read the ball expertly in flight opposed to three better credentialled opponents, marked at the back of the pack and played on to snap truly from 40m.

“If you hit the scoreboard, that’s a bonus,” Langdon said.

“I talk with Leon every week. He’s really clear on me bringing my pressure. As a small forward I need to bring that tackling pressure and create turnovers.

“It’s a pretty simple message for me — pressure, pressure, pressure. I don’t try to complicate it too much, I just try to stick to that.”

That focus, honed with assistant coaches Brad Miller and Adam Schneider, is clearly working. Langdon ranks fifth at GWS for tackles (4.6 a match) behind Tim Taranto (6.6).

That feature of his game was crucial to earning an early contract extension in April that will keep him in Sydney until the end of 2020.

And what of the Harbour City? Langdon had never set foot in the NSW capital before being drafted, and his new home with childhood sweetheart Eli Suleska at picturesque Breakfast Point is a far cry from the red dirt up north. But the presence of some friendly faces is helping.

“Matty de Boer was a former Claremont boy as well and moved over, so he’s been teaching me the ropes,” Langdon said.

“Also Sam Taylor, who was at Swan Districts, is in a similar boat to me in moving away from what he knows.

“It’s good to have common ground with some of the boys and we’ve fitted in really well.”

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