Kevin Sheedy has always been a man of innovation; an enigma who drives the football world to the edges of its wit before conquering it with his ideas of conviction or quirkiness.
Now, after a four-year hiatus, he’s back in the coaches box, already stirring up headlines as the GWS Giants begin to assemble.
Unlike the straight-toothed baby Suns, the Giants are being constructed as some kind of monster. A fusion of reliable but badly worn parts, the very latest technology off the football assembly line and foreign components not yet tried in Australian conditions.
The Giants have been big players already in Trade Week – the attempt to manoeuvre touted prodigy Jaeger O’Meara through and out of the mini-draft was inspired. It didn’t work, but it shows Sheedy and his head honchos Gubby Allen and Stephen Silvagni mean business.
It’s expected the Giants will confirm they have brought back from the depths of retirement four one-club champions. James McDonald, Dean Brogan, Chad Cornes and Luke Power are exemplary footballers and fantastic contributors to their respective clubs over long and esteemed careers.
At a time when clubs are clambering for youth due to the compromised draft, it’s a bold strategy.
Perhaps it’s the path Sheedy and officials at the Giants feel is required to try and win over some part of Greater Western Sydney territory. The Giants may not be able to entertain the luxury of development seasons, where thrashings are the mean.
The combination of launching a team with Israel Folau in its wings, the weight of the AFL and the draft being held in Sydney has switched the spotlight dramatically on Blacktown. The curiosity will last until the season kicks of in earnest next year, but if things turn ugly on the field, darkness could descend quickly.
The recruitment of experienced players will give the Giants a hard body approach instead of relying on raw talent. Real experience in the league and “coaches” on the field is surely invaluable for kids with fast boots but indecisive minds.
Most importantly, it may also buy them four points a couple of times throughout the season.
However, as crucial as a few debut season wins will be, the lasting sustainability of the Giants will be the ultimate test of the AFL’s expansion strategy.
Normally you might argue that Sheedy is putting a bandage over a wound that hasn’t yet formed, because frankly, that future will be without the the four older age recruits.
He’s has graced the game with his vision, but short-term tactics draw the risk of inhibiting mid-term success. But through ingenious pre-selections and aggressive negotiating the Giants are also stockpiling first round draft picks. Already to this stage they have nine of the top 10 selections, and a handful more in the top 20.
In addition, GWS has also left the slate clean for a concerted tilt at uncontracted players at the end of the 2012 season. Scott Pendlebury still looms large after signing just a one-year extension with the Magpies.
It appears to be a meticulous process that has built upon the one used by Gold Coast last year. It is a very different approach to the Suns’ who targeted experienced players that will form the framework of the side in coming years. At this stage, the Giants have no Gary Abletts or Michael Rischitellis.
For that reason, it will be bizarre fusion of a side that takes the field in 2012 – at risk of becoming undermanned if, as is highly probable, the likes of Brogan and McDonald get injured or don’t travel.
Whispers of a Brendan Goddard coup still hover though; that would dramatically change the game, and it’s clear other clubs are getting antsy.
The disgruntled cries are growing louder as every trade deal goes through – it’s apparent the Giants are rippling the waters. Everyone knew the concessions were generous, we just weren’t prepared for how they could be manipulated.
As eccentric as Sheedy is, it is refreshing to have a genuine character standing in the ranks. Everything he’s trying might fail, GWS might teeter on implosion Dubai-style and clubs will laugh under their breath as they pile on the goals.
But the man has an enviable track record, and his Giants are looming larger each day.
It’s sure to make the 2012 season one of the most fascinating yet.
Follow Jack on Twitter @JackBoard.