Pass or fail? I guess it’s very black and white that way, but in sport, and in this instance a season of AFL, there really isn’t too much grey area in this matter.
So, back to the original answer options – pass or fail? And the question – how would you rate the 2015 season for the Greater Western Sydney Giants?
With their humiliating loss to the city’s other team on Saturday, it became virtually assured that the Giants’ 2015 finals campaign was over. No post-season for the Orange men, which is what all teams and their supporters hope for at the start of the season. But does that mean it’s a fail for the Giants?
Certainly looking purely at statistics it’s impossible not to give the year a pass mark and rate the season a big success.
With still two winnable games against Carlton and Melbourne to come, the club has already notched 10 wins from 20 games. They have gone from two wins in their inaugural season, to one in 2013 then six in 2014. Major tick.
But with their improvement in 2015 – particularly early when they held down a spot not only in the top eight but the top four at one point – came expectations, and most suddenly believed that this was the year when their young talent, and their perfect blend of experience with the likes of Ryan Griffen, Shane Mumford, Callan Ward, and Heath Shaw, would propel the Giants to September football for the first time.
And they remained in the eight until Round 17, when injuries and perhaps a little fatigue started to take its toll.
For me the biggest hiccup for the Giants came in Round 11 when the season of their best and most significant and influential player, ruckman Shane Mumford, came to an end due to an ankle injury.
The club was 7-4 at the time, and Mumford had been instrumental in many of those winning performances. He left a huge hole, and one unable to be filled, and in the nine games since the Giants have only managed wins against the Gold Coast, Essendon and St Kilda.
Add to that the season-ending knee injury to key midfielder Dylan Shiel in Round 15, and injuries which have seen skipper Phil Davis miss six of the past nine matches, and it’s clear the Giants have struggled to cover such major gaps.
But away from those – and all sides do get injuries – while GWS have made giants strides in many areas, they are still essentially a group of very talented kids, who can use all the experience they can get.
Seasons, and finals appearances, can be set up in the first half of the year, but it’s the back half where seasons are made. That is the time where it gets tough on bodies and minds, and some of the young Giants have not surprisingly struggled a bit in that area.
Saturday’s thrashing was a bit out of character, and coach Leon Cameron admitted the performance took them back “three of four steps”, suggesting the performance was like the Giants of “a few years ago”. But it can happen with a young group in the late rounds.
So, back to the question of pass or fail.
From me, it is a pass.
At the start of the year we expected the Giants to improve again, but realistically not many thought they could take the steps big enough to make the finals. I didn’t. I thought about 8-10 wins would be a definite pass mark, and another stepping stone towards the finals perhaps next year or certainly in 2017.
They have achieved the 10 wins with potentially one or even two more to come.
While all our expectations rose after their 6-2 start, I think in the end reality set in, and they will finish around where we expected. Just outside the eight, but close enough to indicate they are ready to be on the inside come finals in the coming years.