We have the game covered.

Giant theories about future success are coming unstuck


GWS players trudge from the field after their 35-point loss at home to Essendon last Saturday night, their fourth defeat in a row. Photo: AFL MEDIA

Giant theories about future success are coming unstuck

Rohan Connolly    

AFL football isn’t averse to a bit of hype, and the creation of Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney for the 2011 and 2012 seasons saw the unleashing of a tidal wave.

What were seen as generous recruiting provisions would, those in that sphere warned, lead to the creation of two super teams too good for anyone else.

“I’ve been trying to tell people for a year that they have been given too much and it’s going to kill everyone,” Adelaide recruiting manager Matt Rendell said back in 2010, in what was a very popular view. “Gold Coast will win its first flag around 2014-15 and then between them and GWS they will win the next 10.”

Come 2018, we’re still waiting for the Suns to have even made a finals appearance. And the Giants? Well, after two consecutive top-four finishes, they’re currently 11th with just four wins, having just lost their fourth game in a row.

How could so many learned people have got it so wrong? Because AFL football isn’t a perfect world. Because what seems logical on paper can’t allow for the various twists of fate in the future.

But primarily, because winning an AFL flag is bloody hard, an achievement which requires plenty of luck as well as good planning and preparation.

Gold Coast at times hasn’t even had that much, the Suns rife with behavioural issues and culture problems even when they were a lot closer to success than they are now, Stuart Dew’s appointment as coach for this season effectively a third go at starting from scratch. And after coming close enough, the Giants in 2018 appear to have headed backwards.

Injuries certainly haven’t been kind to GWS, Saturday’s team which lost to Essendon without bona fide stars in Toby Greene, Tom Scully, skipper Phil Davis and Brett Deledio, and Josh Kelly back for his first game since round three.

But the Giants had as bad a run in the medical room last year and managed to soldier on winning enough games to qualify for a top-four finish. Right now, the issues appear more about structure and spirit as personnel.

Most of the Giants’ best players against the Bombers were the better players of who was available. They had more of the ball, won more contested possession and enjoyed more inside 50 entries. Yet down by just five points at three-quarter time, they were outscored 1.3 to 6.3 in the last term to lose by 35 points, none of their four straight losses by anything less than 25.

The once much-vaunted GWS forward set-up is struggling badly without Greene, Rory Lobb having become primarily a ruckman and Jonathon Patton also having to spend plenty of time on the ball. The Giants haven’t managed more than nine goals in any of the four straight defeats.

But there’s a general torpor about their play all over the ground this season, the devastating run and carry and attacking flair of their best seemingly a distant memory.

There was a consensus after last season’s preliminary final loss to Richmond that the Giants still needed a bit more defensive steel, yet these things are always a fine balance, and you can’t help but wonder whether coach Leon Cameron might have traded in a little too much of their strongest suit to compensate.

And to return to the initial theme, how is all that glut of junior talent working out eight years down the track? Well, a lot of it is no longer there. With so many talented kids, GWS (and the Suns) were always going to lose their share of players over the journey, but that has gradually eroded the Giants’ depth.

Imagine the likes of Adam Treloar, Taylor Adams, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Devon Smith, Tom Boyd, Caleb Marchbank, Lachie Plowman, Curtly Hampton, Cam McCarthy and Jacob Townsend as part of the mix now.

With all due respect, probably preferable to the likes of Tim Mohr, Dylan Buckley, Daniel Lloyd, Matt Buntine and Harry Perryman currently in the 22.

You can’t help but wonder whether too many Giants not getting a senior game are inclined to battle hard enough for one given the reasonable prospects that another AFL club might come calling during the next trade period.

And with the up-and-comers the calibre of Harry Himmelberg, Zac Langdon struggling at the moment, and bigger names like Patton, Lobb and even Dylan Shiel far from their best, GWS looks, even on paper, far less like a super team and far more like just another among a pack of clubs battling for a lower spot in the eight.

It’s certainly a long way from being a super team, Gold Coast still even further adrift. And another lesson that what seems sound enough theory in the world of AFL football all too often doesn’t transpire in practice.

*This article first appeared at SPORTING NEWS AUSTRALIA

Leave a Reply

*