AFLW 2018 team preview and predicted finish: GWS Giants

Joel Shepherd Roar Rookie

By , Joel Shepherd is a Roar Rookie

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    Despite only winning one game last season, it’s not patronising to suggest that the Giants have the makings of a reasonable team.

    Given the distance that New South Wales and the ACT are behind the rest of the country in women’s football talent development, that solitary win was one more than most people expected.

    But a combination of hard physical pressure, and good talent in key positions, kept GWS from being embarrassed in their first season.

    Creative recruiting was always going to be a necessity given the lack of local talent, and with Renee Forth — perhaps the highest profile of the interstate picks — out for the whole season with a knee injury, GWS’s performance looks even more creditable.

    Among GWS’s biggest problems last season was an inability to kick big scores. This season the forward line remains on paper the thinnest in the league… though intriguingly, new Irish recruit Cora Staunton is expected to play forward.

    Staunton is a real wildcard for the Giants — there’s no doubting her ability, having established herself as one of the best female Gaelic footballers playing. The question, as always, is whether she can make the transition to the Australian game.

    In ten years time the odds would be against her, but with the AFLW’s playing standards still in their infancy, her impact could be large and immediate.

    It’s in the middle of the ground where things get really interesting in Blacktown. The Giants’ best player in season one was Jess Dal Pos, the Victorian midfielder who moved north on a whim and began to shine. Combined with WA recruit Emma Swanson, the Giants already have a pair of genuinely good midfielders.

    Now these two will be joined by Alicia Eva, Collingwood’s best midfielder from season one, and probably their best player too (with apologies to Nicola Stevens), and by returning marquee Renee Forth, recovered from last season’s knee injury.

    Throw in local cricketer and first-round pick Jodie Hicks, rugby-convert tackling machine Haneen Zreika, and mature-age SANFL best-and-fairest winner Courtney Gum, and that starts to look like an extremely decent midfield.

    Not decent enough to match Melbourne or the Bulldogs, perhaps, but certainly superior to Carlton or Collingwood. What the Giants lack, of course, is Carlton or Collingwood’s quality in the forward line.

    If nothing else, GWS in 2018 will allow viewers to consider whether it’s better for a team to have a weak forward line with a strong midfield, or like the Pies, a weak midfield with a strong forward line.

    In the backline the Giants have lost possibly their best defender Alex Williams back home to Fremantle, but have added Tanya Hetherington (Captain of Diamond Creek in the VFL), Carlton recruit Rebecca Privitelli and Melbourne recruit Peppa Randall to help.

    Working with Captain Amanda Farrugia and GWS’s other best player, Nicola Barr, the Giants should be solid enough down back… but other than Barr there’s not a lot of run and carry, and last year the Giants got stuck a lot inside their defensive fifty.

    There’s no doubt GWS will be a lot better this year, but so will everyone else. To finish off the bottom of the ladder, they’ll have to start improving faster than those above them. Despite the impressive midfield, I’m not sure they’ve quite done enough this time around.

    Prediction: 8th.

    In addition to his interest in sport, Joel Shepherd is a professional Science Fiction author. You can read more by him here.