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Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: GWS Giants

Harrison Himmelberg’s four goals for GWS in the preliminary final could be the springboard for bigger and better things. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: GWS Giants

Ronny Lerner    

2017 record: 15 wins, 8 losses, 2 draws (4th)

Lachie Keeffe (Collingwood), Dylan Buckley (Carlton), Aiden Bonar (Dandenong Stingrays), Brent Daniels (Bendigo Pioneers), Sam Taylor (Swan Districts), Zac Giles Langdon (Claremont), Nick Shipley (St George – Sydney AFL), Jack Buckley (UWS Giants)

Devon Smith (Essendon), Nathan Wilson (Fremantle), Matthew Kennedy (Carlton), Tom Downie (retired), Steve Johnson (retired), Tendai Mzungu (retired), Shane Mumford (retired)

The Giants have arguably the best midfield in the competition. They bat so deep in that part of the ground it’s not funny. It would be a dream for any coach to be able to run Josh Kelly, Callan Ward, Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio, Tom Scully, Lachie Whitfield, Brett Deledio, Toby Greene, Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto through the middle. In terms of 2017 differentials, GWS were ranked first in the AFL for clearances, second for tackles, second for disposal efficiency and fourth for contested possessions. The Giants’ forward line is also potent with Jeremy Cameron, Jonathon Patton and Greene all finishing on 45 goals at the completion of the finals series. Rory Lobb is a handful in attack as well, but he’ll probably spend more time in the ruck now that Shane Mumford has retired. GWS were ranked third on differentials for scores per inside 50 last season so they are a very efficient football side once their free-flowing ‘Orange Tsunami’ game style is in full flight. The Giants were hit hard with injuries and suspensions in 2017 with 10 of their best players Deledio, Adam Kennedy, Coniglio, Hopper, Taranto, Whitfield, Cameron, Greene, Nick Haynes and Lobb missing a combined total of 104 games, an average of 10 each. They still managed to make a preliminary final with all of those personnel issues. If they can experience a bit more luck in the medical room in 2018, a grand final appearance is just about a fait accompli.

On paper everything looks hunky dory, but something intangible appears to be missing from this footy team. They’ve now made it to consecutive preliminary finals, but on both occasions, the Western Bulldogs and Richmond, who were the eventual premiers in those respective seasons, just wanted it more. They were visibly hungrier. Perhaps it was the weight of history that drove them towards breaking 99 years’ worth of premiership drought between them and the Giants were just unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, it might sound harsh, but maybe GWS – this group which consists mainly of incredibly talented youngsters who have all been brought together with the expectation of delivering silverware to the west of Sydney – just think it’s going to happen. There’s a kind of an accepted inevitability within the footy community that a Giants premiership is very much a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’. That sentiment might be permeating the walls of Spotless Stadium and could be affecting the players’ psyche, too. If they don’t at least make a grand final next year, then something seriously is wrong at the club. On the field, there are a few question marks over their backline, especially with speedster Nathan Wilson now at Fremantle. They’re a little bit undersized in defence and Heath Shaw didn’t exactly have his best season in 2017.

Harrison Himmelberg used one of the biggest stages to announce himself. He only has 16 games to his credit, but his last one was by far his best one as he booted four goals in a preliminary final at a packed MCG which was 99 percent filled with rabid Richmond supporters. That was as good as an extra 10 games’ experience for the 21-year-old, and it could be the springboard for bigger and better things.

Brett Deledio might be a harsh nomination, because it’s his body that’s been conspiring against him, but league footy is a cut-throat environment, and if the former Tiger can’t do what he has to do to get out on the field more often than not, then his spot in the side will be in jeopardy. Calf injuries have restricted him to just 18 games in two years and he spent over 12 months out of the game before finally debuting for GWS in round 20. To his credit he featured in the club’s final seven matches of the season, but his output will have to improve dramatically if he is to stay in the best 22.

B: Heath Shaw, Phil Davis, Aidan Corr
HB: Zac Williams, Adam Tomlinson, Nick Haynes
C: Tom Scully, Callan Ward, Lachie Whitfield
HF: Brett Deledio, Jeremy Cameron, Josh Kelly
F: Rory Lobb, Jonathon Patton, Toby Greene
Foll: Dawson Simpson, Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio
Inter: Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Harrison Himmelberg, Adam Kennedy
Emerg: Matt de Boer, Ryan Griffen, Sam Reid

The return of defender Adam Kennedy, hopefully by the middle of the year after rupturing his ACL in May, will be a welcome boost, and Matt Buntine will be back in the frame, too, after recovering from a knee injury. Simpson gets a huge chance to finally become a regular member of an AFL side after 10 years in the system thanks to Mumford’s retirement. However, the Giants hierarchy may aim to use Lobb as the No.1 ruck with Patton as a pinch-hitter. For now, Simpson is in the 22. When you’ve got blokes like Griffen and De Boer, who became a critical piece of the team, as emergencies, you know you’ve got an incredibly strong team that should be contending for the flag.

1 Comment
  1. I like this. HH is going to play a lot more this season. He’ll keep Cameron & Patton honest, plus he has backline versatility to boot. Tomlinson has always been seen as the designated ‘swing-man’, but HH has him covered.

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