2017: 4th (14 wins – 6 losses – 2 draws); Lost in Preliminary final to Richmond
Lachlan Keeffe (from Collingwood)
Steve Johnson (retirement), Shane Mumford (retirement), Matt Kennedy (to Carlton), Devon Smith (to Essendon), Nathan Wilson (to Fremantle)
Million Dollar Question
Everybody knows this is a talented list. But do the Giants own a Premiership caliber list? After losing heartbreaking preliminary finals to the eventual Premiers two years running, the Giants are out to prove to the football world that they are a team with substance, a team with character, and not just a group of high numbered draft picks running around the park. When you have the abundance of talent at your disposal as Giants coach Leon Cameron has, every year is Premiership or bust, unfair or not. What would a third gut-wrenching prelim final loss in a row do to the psyche of this playing group?
The Giants have everything they seemingly need. Strong leadership in defence in skipper Phil Davis and Heath Shaw, an extraordinary midfield group containing near on a dozen players who complement each other almost perfectly. It is also hard to forget one of the best 1/2 tall forward combinations in the league in Johnathan Patton and Jeremy Cameron. The Giants are still sitting just on league average in terms of age, but still sit below the average of games played at 64 (the league average is 83). Of course, this would suggest the Giants still have plenty of improvement left from plenty of players on the list, a scary thought indeed for the rest of the competition. A wretched injury run left the Giants with only 27 healthy players to pick from at one point last season, so to still make the top 4 and a preliminary final was an amazing achievement. But this team was built to win premierships, and if they can just improve 5% in 2018, you wouldn’t bet against the Orange tsunami being there in the big game come September.
The elephant in the room when it comes to the Giants is that this is a group who often turn up to games and expect to get the job done off talent alone, which is fraught with danger in this league and can often get you stung by hungrier opponents. It’s challenging to make a case as to why such a talented team like this can’t have success, but the Giants look to be a team that doesn’t understand 100% what it takes. The 1%’ers, the transition running, all the little things Premiership caliber sides do, these Giants rarely do. In fact, they’re a team who pick and choose. One would also expect such a team to have a better scoring average than that of the Giants 94.6 per game. That’s good numbers for a team making up the numbers in the 8, but not a premiership hopeful like GWS. The Giants will look to fill the massive void left in the ruck stocks with the retirement of Shane Mumford, while trying to cover the losses of outside runners Nathan Wilson (who left for Fremantle in the offseason) and Zac Williams (torn Achilles) could also prove tricky. A lot of questions hover over the leagues most talented football team.
One to Watch
The fact the Giants rushed Tim Taranto back into the side to face the Crows in the first qualifying final after missing close to three months out with an ankle injury last season says it all. Taranto, entering year two in 2018, is just another great young footballer the Giants have on their list. Taranto is clean, possess footy smarts and knows how to hit the scoreboard when he sneaks forward. He will be a household name in 18 months time.
It’s flag or bust. It is that simple, and it has to be with such a supremely gifted football team. Every year without a flag is another lost opportunity for these Giants, and it’s another season without much exposure to the MCG (just two games scheduled there this season against Collingwood and Melbourne). They’ll be top 4 again. They’ll thrill us all again with their at times “Harlem Globetrotter-esque” football, but what happens when the final two weeks of the season roll around? They can’t roll over in the prelim for the third year running. They just can’t.