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Footyology countdown: Time for team to match Giant talent


Steve Johnson surrounded by GWS talent. The veteran has retired, but there’s no shortage of would-be stars to pick up the baton. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Footyology countdown: Time for team to match Giant talent

Rohan Connolly    

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
2017 record: 15 wins, 8 losses, 2 draws (4th)
List age ranking (oldest to youngest): 3rd
List experience ranking (most to fewest games): 5th
Footyology draw ranking (easiest to hardest): 10th

THE INS
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)

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

THE BEST 22
B: Heath Shaw, Phil Davis, Nick Haynes
HB: Lachie Whitfield, Adam Tomlinson, Ryan Griffen
C: Tom Scully, Callan Ward, Josh Kelly
HF: Brett Deledio, Jeremy Cameron, Matt de Boer
F: Harry Himmelberg, Jonathon Patton, Toby Greene
Foll: Rory Lobb, Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio
Inter: Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Daniel Lloyd, Adam Kennedy
Emerg: Dawson Simpson, Aidan Corr, Sam Reid

THE PROGNOSIS
For a while, the Giants were just pups. In 2016, pipped in a preliminary final, they were dead stiff. Last year, they were racked by injuries and still managed to come within one win of a grand final berth.

But entering its seventh year in the AFL competition, it’s fair to say the goodwill towards GWS is in short supply, and even the most reasonable of excuses are no longer going to be cut much slack.

For all their prodigious talent across an entire senior list, there’s some intangible still missing from the GWS mix, exposed most obviously in the preliminary final defeat against eventual premier Richmond.

That was a game in which the Giants were every bit a winning chance, but were ultimately “out-hungered” by a team ravenous for premiership success. And while it’s not necessarily GWS’s fault, can a club full of highly-rated draft stars not immersed in the cauldron of emotion and history of a place like Punt Road have the same insatiable appetite?

At the top end of the AFL, it’s those little things which make a big difference. And one tell-tale statistic about the Giants in 2017 was the fact they won just one of seven games against top-four opponents.

Injuries still aren’t being kind, either. And after losing running defender Nathan Wilson to Fremantle, the subsequent serious achilles injury to his rebounding colleague Zac Williams, potentially out for the season, is a huge blow to a backline which already had a few question marks.

Lachie Whitfield has looked good as a replacement in that space, and it’s also a role veteran Ryan Griffen could fill, fitness permitting. But GWS may be doing some juggling at the other end, too.

Shane Mumford’s retirement leaves either Rory Lobb or Dawson Simpson as the Giants’ ruck option. Given the GWS forward set-up looked cumbersome at times last season, Lobb’s shift away from permanent forward duties may actually be doing the Giants a favour.

Forward pressure was an area in which the Giants haven’t excelled, so a more hard-nosed defensive forward such as Matt de Boer and the very promising Harry Himmelberg might become more integral parts of the GWS line-up than many would have imagined.

All that said, either Lobb or Simpson in the ruck, while lacking Mumford’s physical presence, need only to be competitive, because the glut of midfield talent for the Giants remains impressive indeed

Josh Kelly, Callan Ward, Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio, Tom Scully, Whitfield, Brett Deledio, Toby Greene, Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto represent a midfield contingent most rivals would kill for.

They’re both silky and hard when they need to be, GWS last season on the differentials ranked first for clearances, second for tackles, second for disposal efficiency and fourth for contested possession.

That the Giants have sufficient talent across the park is not in question. It’s the capacity to have that talent gel more seamlessly across the 22 rather than as a collection of stars which will ultimately determine whether a club which should win a premiership actually does.

THE PREDICTION
6th. Could just as easily be No.1. But there’s a synergy GWS needs to find first which, to this stage, it hasn’t quite managed to do.

THE LADDER SO FAR (click on team to read)
6. GWS
7. GEELONG
8. ESSENDON
9. WESTERN BULLDOGS
10. HAWTHORN
11. COLLINGWOOD
12. ST KILDA
13. WEST COAST
14. NORTH MELBOURNE
15. BRISBANE
16. CARLTON
17. FREMANTLE
18. GOLD COAST

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