There are two ways of assessing GWS’s 2017 season – glass half full or glass half empty.
With a half full glass, it is fair to say that to finish top four and reach the preliminary final was a remarkable effort considering the sheer number of injuries with which their list was littered. No doubt a lesser side with poorer depth could not possibly have handled the barrage of injuries to key players that the Giants endured. They still made the preliminary final – tick.
With a half empty glass, 2017 was a fail for GWS. With the tag of the undisputed red-hot favourites coming into the 2017 season, at times they struggled to find – or at the very least, show – their identity as a football side. This ‘super-team’ spoilt with endless first round picks teased us with their explosively devastating power spreading away from stoppages, but then frustrated us with their inability to deliver it on a consistent basis. Regardless of injuries, Leon Cameron and the players will rue the second consecutive chance missed to book their spot at the last Saturday in September.
FB: Nick Haynes, Phil Davis, Heath Shaw
HB: Jeremy Finlayson, Adam Tomlinson, Ryan Griffen
C: Lachie Whitfield, Dylan Shiel, Tom Scully
HF: Callan Ward, Jeremy Cameron, Brett Deledio
FF: Harrison Himmelberg, Jonny Patton, Toby Greene
R: Rory Lobb, Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio
INT: Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Matt Deboer, Daniel Lloyd
EMG: Dawson Simpson, Zac Langdon, Nick Shipley, Lachie Keeffe
(Matt Buntine and Adam Kennedy play if fit)
Best 22 Analysis
Even with Zac Williams and Will Setterfield sidelined, their starting 22 looks powerful. They have a nice balance of inside bulls, outside class and those that boast both. They look strong across all three lines and on paper alone, the other 17 coaches around Australia would lose sleep over this side.
However, even without injuries to Williams and Setterfield, or Buntine and Kennedy – the 6-8 beneath the starting 22 is the glaring issue. Losing Matthew Kennedy, Nathan Wilson, Devon Smith, Shane Mumford, Steve Johson and even Tendai Mzungu will put anyone’s depth to the sword, and if the Giants continue to elude luck with injuries as they did last year, it is certainly doubtful whether they are capable of going as far into September as what they did last year – let alone going further. You’d be hard pressed to find a side with a greater discrepancy between their best side and the group of players vying for a spot in the seniors. Fascinating.
Round 3 vs Sydney @ SCG
Before we find out about their depth later in the year, we need to know if they’re going to bring their devastating power against the best. Crosstown rivals Sydney will be a crucial test early in the season, can the Giants prove they’re still a force to be reckoned with?
Round 17 vs Richmond @ Spotless Stadium
It may look like a copout to say the reigning premier – who deprived GWS a spot in the grand final, of course – is key match for the Giants. But look closer, Richmond basically hunted down a premiership with the exact desperation and pressure that many accused the Giants of lacking. Could be a telling fixture in 2018, with finals just on the horizon.
Breakout Player – Rory Lobb
It would be easy to suggest high draft picks like Jacob Hopper, Tim Taranto or Harrison Himmelberg will breakout for the Giants this year. They’re all quality players. But the hole left by Shane Mumford – and a big one at that, quite literally – Rory Lobb is primed to take his game to the next level. Already well regarded as a key forward/ second ruck, Lobb has the opportunity to stamp his name as one of the league’s best ruckmen and with his athletic ability and clean hands above his head, it is well within his capabilities to become just that.
Fantasy Gold – Josh Kelly
While Shiel is a proven supercoach jet, and Coniglio is temptingly under-priced, Josh Kelly is the sure-thing supercoach-machine. May well be on his way to a Brownlow this year and is all but a certainty to average 110+, conservatively. There are many great options in the money-line of supercoach squads, but saying no to Kelly will not be easy.
Prediction – 4th
I have them just scraping into the top four because at full strength they are as scary as anyone. Their depth is what will really test them, and ultimately may cost them a double chance. If they do squeeze into the top four and manage to field something close to their best side, though, look out.
Follow Harrison on Twitter @harrisonreid12