Vendetta Sports Media’s AFL season 2021 coverage continues with a preview of the AFL’s youngest club, the Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants.
After making their first grand final in 2019 – and getting spanked by the Tigers – they fell away shockingly in 2020. Can the Giants reclaim their place in the final eight, or was 2019 the peak for this group?
For all of our previous AFL team previews, click here.
10th. 8 wins, 9 losses, 95.6%
For all the wonder of 2019, where the Giants combined toughness around the ball with free flowing movement once they had secured it, 2020 saw a team that could best be describes as stodgy.
For whatever reason (you could blame injuries, but the Giants are perennially one of the most injury prone teams in the competition) the Giants lost the ability to get the ball in the trenches and when they did get it their ball movement was ponderous and predictable. Frankly, the only reason they finished as high as they did is their overwhelming talent levels.
Key ins: Jesse Hogan (Dockers), Brayden Preuss (Demons), Tanner Bruhn, Cameron Fleeton, Ryan Angwin (all draft)
Key outs: Jye Caldwell (Bombers), Jeremy Cameron (Cats), Zac Williams (Blues), Aidan Corr (Kangaroos), Jackson Hately (Crows), Zac Langdon (Eagles), Sam Reid (released), Sam Jacobs, Heath Shaw, Tom Sheridan (all retired)
After a disastrous 2020 campaign, the off season couldn’t have gone much worse for GWS. They lost influential defender Heath Shaw and first ruck Sam Jacobs to retirement, but the big blows came in defections to other clubs. Williams, Corr, Caldwell, and Hately rob the Giants vaunted midfield of much of its depth, whilst seeing ace spearhead Jeremy Cameron depart for the Cats only one season after losing their other key forward in Jon Patton could be a devastating blow.
To alleviate the loss of Cameron, the Giants brought in troubled former Docker and Demon Jesse Hogan. Undoubtedly a prodigious talent, Hogan has seen two clubs in the space of three years give up on his him due to his off field professionalism. This is surely his last chance at AFL level.
You have to feel for Pruess. He’s spent his career behind perennial All Australian rucks in Todd Goldstein at the Kangaroos and Max Gawn with the Demons. He’s impressed whenever given a game, but has been starved of opportunities. Now, as the presumed first ruck with the Giants, the poor bloke has suffered a shoulder injury and will likely be sidelined until July. The club still has veteran ruck Shame Mumford to carry the load on his enormous shoulders in the meantime.
Up front, Cameron’s absence will be keenly felt, but there is young talent that the club hopes will be able to step up. Even if Hogan fails to reach his former heights, Harry Himmelberg and Jeremy Finlayson have provided good support to Cameron in past seasons. It remains to be seen if they can lift their games to the next level. Jake Riccardi looks a player, but is likely too young to assume key forward status just yet. The love him/hate him Toby Greene is a wonderful player, no matter what you may think of his antics on the field. He formed a devastating combination with Cameron. Can he create similar chemistry with another big man?
Defensively, the team will miss Shaw’s ability to organise a defense – even if his leg speed had all but deserted him. There are still big names in the back end, headlined by Lachie Whitfield and veteran full back Phil Davis. The returning Callan Ward is a big inclusion, assuming he can stay on the park: he’s played in a mere eight of the Giants past 43 contests. We may see one of the Giants midfielders play deeper in defense this campaign if no youngsters emerge.
Whilst the Giants midfield has been thinned somewhat, the big names are still wearing orange: Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio, Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper and defensive ace Matt DeBoer will ensure that this midfield is, when at full capacity, the strength of the side. Look for young Bruhn – who has speed to burn – to make an immediate impact.
Despite an awful 2020, this is still a squad littered with individually brilliant players, though they’ve undoubtedly been weakened this off season. If the Giants can avoid the injury bug for once; if their forward can gel without Cameron; if they can unearth another defensive gem; if Mumford can drag his ageing body through a season without any ruck support….if, if, if.
If all of those things happen, the Giants can threaten the top four, but that’s too many if’s for this writer. They may well make this prediction look foolish, but it looks as though too much has to go right for the Giants to make noise in 2021.