AFLW 2018 team preview and predicted finish: GWS Giants

Joel Shepherd Roar Guru

By Joel Shepherd, Joel Shepherd is a Roar Guru

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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.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • Roar Guru

      December 5th 2017 @ 8:35am
      mds1970 said | December 5th 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      The Giants probably exceeded expectations this year by winning one game and drawing another.
      They look to have a stronger team next year. It won’t be easy, but the potential is there to move up the ladder. Having four home games next year after only 3 this year also is an advantage.

      • December 5th 2017 @ 11:01am
        Joel Shepherd said | December 5th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        They do look to have a much stronger team, and I won’t be surprised if my prediction is wrong and they avoid the wooden spoon. But the problem with looking at teams in isolation is that it doesn’t account for the competition. Everyone else will also be much better next season, which will leave a lot of very improved teams still treading water, or going backwards. Time will tell.

    • December 6th 2017 @ 2:22am
      Martin said | December 6th 2017 @ 2:22am | ! Report

      The trip to Fremantle Oval on March 3rd is going to be a tough assignment for the Giants.

      • December 8th 2017 @ 5:07pm
        Joel Shepherd said | December 8th 2017 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

        Yes, but not as tough as Rd 1 at Casey Fields against the Demons. Easier trip, harder opponent. And Rd 3 against Collingwood at Olympic Park Oval… potential upset? Interesting to see if the Pies fans boo Alicia Eva just as hard as they’d boo an ex-Collingwood man…

    • Roar Guru

      December 9th 2017 @ 10:11pm
      mastermind5991 said | December 9th 2017 @ 10:11pm | ! Report

      Although they finished last in the inaugural AFLW season they did exceed expectations with their style of play and that solitary win against Melbourne that you spoke of.

      Looking back, it’s fair to say that result probably changed the course of the whole competition, because had Melbourne won that match, they would’ve finished second, they would’ve been the ones facing the Brisbane Lions in the Grand Final and the Adelaide Crows wouldn’t have become the champion team that they would become.

      I was also impressed by how they played against Freo at Blacktown in round three. I was at that game; when the scores were level with mere minutes remaining they attacked hard, making it clear they were playing to win rather than playing simply to win premiership points. I didn’t know how to react – but I did joke that it went down as “the most celebrated draw in AFL history” because both teams were without a win going into the game.

      Unlike the men’s side, which were miles behind the rest of the competition when they entered the AFL in 2012, every AFLW team started on a clean slate and it was thus impossible to know exactly what to expect from each of them. Yes the female Giants struggled in their first season, but it was expected given their marquee player (Renee Forth( was out for the season and NSW/ACT is not a strong recruiting market for female AFL players.

      The arrival of Alicia Eva for the 2018 season could be seen as their Heath Shaw moment in their development and there is no doubt she will add some experience to a talented but still learning line-up.

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 2:26am
      Joel Shepherd said | January 2nd 2018 @ 2:26am | ! Report

      No doubt their good players are really good, especially in that midfield. But in guessing where teams will finish, you have to look at past form, and you have to ask yourself who they’re going to beat? Last season they got Melbourne and drew with Freo… well Melbourne look scary this season so I can’t see that happening again, and I think Freo will be one of the most improved in the competition… Maybe I’m just not brave enough, but I’ll wait for them to prove they can finish off the bottom before I’ll start picking them there.

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