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The comprehensive end-of-year review: Greater Western Sydney Giants

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Roar Guru
8th November, 2018

This is the ninth of nineteen articles looking at the meta-results for both team and players, as collected from ELO-Following Football’s wide range of sources.

Presenting, the GWS Giants.

Back in 2017
The team finished fourth with a home-and-away record of 14-6-2 and a percentage of 115. (They were the first team to play to two consecutive draws since Carlton in 1921. Interestingly, the Blues also played the first two games of 1911 to draws, creating a record of 0-0-2 at the time.)

They lost in the prelim final to eventual premiers Richmond at the MCG in front of 94000 Tiger fans and 258 Giant fans.

The expectations for the team
Were high. Finally, the potential will be realised! The consensus opinion (before the onslaught of injuries hit) was that the Giants were the Greater of the Sydney teams, expected to be in second place at year’s end.

Cam Rose of The Roar had them pegged in seventh, as did Michael Whiting of, and nobody considered GWS missing finals as a reasonable possibility, although after falling to 4-5-1 in Round 10, statistically, it was more likely than not that they would.

Coming into the season, the players who were considered to be in the top 50 in the league by the AFLPA and/or The Roar included Josh Kelly (top ten), Toby Greene, Dylan Shiel, and Callan Ward (all top 25), Jeremy Cameron, and Tom Scully.

Josh Kelly

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

In 2018, the team finished
With more injuries than ever bseventh-placenth place finish and a record of 13-8-1 (114 per cent). They made it past their crumbling city-rivals, the Swans, before Collingwood demolished them en route to the decider.


It’s been four years since they missed the finals. In each of the last three seasons, they’ve been the “X-factor” that could do damage in September – and they’ve shown signs of it every year.

It’s been…
Six seasons since their last wooden spoon. They went 3-41 over their first two seasons, choosing to start from scratch with draft picks and young studs that would mature together. It did both things that they expected – developed a group of stars at the same time, and brought them large contracts to keep the potential together, which did severe damage to their salary cap.

According to our patented “ELO-Following Football” rating system
The Giants started the season at 60.9, a tenth of a point behind the Cats in the battle for fifth (The top three were all in the 70s, 50 being average). A huge Round 1 victory over an overrated Bulldogs team propelled them towards a peak of 70.7 after Round 4, but they fell all the way to 42.5 after Round 10.

With Josh Kelly back, they started a gradual climb that reached a seasonal peak of 71.3 three weeks ago, but the latest set of injuries dropped them back into the bottom of that 60-65 pack, just above the Swans.

The other rating systems
Unlike Following Football, most of the other rating systems saw the Giants peak in Round 2 or 3. Of course, we all have graphs shaped like a valley, the riverbed being around Round 10 or so, with a canyon lip here at the end.

Across the spectrum game-by-game expectations
Final record: 13-8-1
Betting Line expectations: 14-8.
ELO-Following Football forecasts: 15-7. game predictions: 17-5.
The Roar predictions: 15-7 overall; individual predictors saw them 82-39 overall.
”Pick-A-Winner” predictions: 16.5 – 5.5
The Age forecasters: 16-6 overall; the twelve writers saw them at 176-88.
BetEasy “CrowdBet” percentages: 15-7; the percentages fell 1483% for, 717% against.
(My own game-by-game predictions pegged them at 16 wins. 6 losses.)

What was their best game of the season?
4th place: The two-point win over the defending champion Tigers in Round 17, 79-77, perhaps the high point of their 9-1 stretch from June through mid-August.

3rd place: A 151-46 rout of wooden spoon recipient Carlton in Round 20, notable for the fact that injuries had depleted the Giants so badly, they played most of the fourth quarter with one less man on the field than the Blues (and for the last six minutes or so, two less men), and still outscored their woeful opponent 7.3 to 1.0 for the period.


2nd place: The elimination final victory over cross-town rival Sydney, dominating the favoured Swans 79-30. Any finals win is a great win; any win over the big brother is a great win; and any time you hold a finals-quality team to four goals and win by 49 is a great win. Combine the three and knock the Swans out for the year, and that’s got to be the best game of the season.

Toby Greene kicks out at Nic Newman while taking a mark

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

1st place: Unless you agree with my assessment the only reason they ever got to that point of the season instead of staying home in September is the return of Josh Kelly in Round 11 and the first-ever victory over the Adelaide Crows in Adelaide, 97-81.

They were 4-5-1 going into the game, coming off six and seven-goal losses to the Kangaroos and Bombers, and their promising season was about to go down in flames.

After a Darcy Fogerty goal early in Q4 put the Crows ahead, they could have folded. Instead, two Jeremy Cameron goals and one by Zac Langdon pushed the visitors to a stunning 16-point victory, sparking the nine-in-ten winning streak and resurrecting the hope of not only making finals but making noise in finals, as they were originally expected to do.

Which game would they most like to erase from memory?
Round 7 was probably the most embarrassing loss of the year, a four-goal performance at Geelong which they lost 93-32, and if anything, it wasn’t even that competitive.

The Giant’s first score came 22 minutes in, by which point Leon Cameron’s team was already 18 points down and never seemed to challenge. They then lost the aforementioned games to the Kangaroos and Bombers; it’s not hard to imagine that they would’ve packed it in for the winter had they not upset Adelaide in round 10.

If we were to speak of the club in as many words as they had wins in 2018:
“Just wish that those injury issues could have been solved during those ‘focus groups’!”


Meta-Player Of The Year Results
1. Lachie Whitfield – 323 points (14th overall)
Best and Fairest finish: First in the hearts of his countrymen as well. This was Whitfield’s first Kevin Sheedy medal. Received 16 Brownlow votes, the most on the Giants’ roster.
Last year’s meta-PotY finish: 11th. (143rd overall)
Notable games: One dominant game (in Round 6), two prominent games (Round 1 and 21), and five notable games (Round 12, plus Round 17-20 consecutively – and a prominent in Round 21 to cap it off.)
All-Australian half-back; ELO-FF Top 22 and First Team Defenceman.
(Note: Also first in meta-points during finals.)

Lachie Whtifield GWS Giants AFL 2016

(AAP Image/David Moir)

2. Stephen Coniglio – 306 points (20th overall)
Best and Fairest finish: Fourth. Coniglio received 11 Brownlow votes, third most on the club.
Last year’s meta-PotY finish: 12th place. (148th overall).
Notable games: Three dominant games (Round 1, 2, and 20), and two prominent games (Round 18 and R23).
ELO-FF Top 22.

3. Callan Ward – 306 points (20th overall)
Best and Fairest finish: Second. Also second on the team in Brownlow votes received, with 13.
Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Fifth (56th overall). Fourth in 2016.
Notable games: Three dominant (Round 12, 15 and 17), one prominent (Round 20), and three notable (Round 4, 10 and 21).
All-Australian 40-man roster.

4. Josh Kelly – 243 points (43rd overall)
Best and Fairest finish: Ninth. Considering he missed seven games during the season, his results are remarkable. He also received ten Brownlow votes, fourth on the team.
Last year’s meta-PotY finish: First, fifth overall in the league. He was ninth in 2016.
Notable games: Two dominant games, in Round 14 and 20, and two notable games (Rounds 18 and 19).

5. Jeremy Cameron – 137 points (84th overall)
Best and Fairest finish: Equal tenth.
Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Fourth (47th overall).
Notable games: One dominant game (Round 12), and one prominent game (Round 1).

6. Dylan Shiel – 134 points (87th overall)
Best and Fairest finish: Sixth.
Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Second (38th overall); third (28th overall) in 2016.
Notable games: None.

7. Harrison Himmelberg – 90 points (131st overall)
Best and Fairest finish: not in top ten.
Last year’s meta-PotY finish: 27th.
Notable games: Two notable games in Round 19 and 21


8. Phil Davis – 89 points (139th overall)
Best and Fairest finish: Third.
Last year’s meta-PotY finish: Eighth (109th overall).
Notable games: One prominent game, in Round 5.

9. Heath Shaw – 86 points (145th overall)
Best and Fairest finish: Equal tenth.
Last year’s meta-PotY finish: 15th.
Notable games: None.

10. Brett Delidio – 79 points (165th overall)
Best and Fairest finish: not in top ten
Last year’s meta-PotY finish: 33rd.
Notable games: One dominant game, in Round 5.

[GWS had six top 100 players and 11 top 200 players in the 2018 ELO-FF meta-rankings. Averages would be 5 and a half and 11, respectively.]

Honorable Mentions
Toby Greene – 17th place (47 points). Fourth on the club in points during finals. One prominent game in Round 1, before the injuries.
Nick Haynes – 11th place (75 points). Fifth place in Best and Fairest finish.
Jake Hopper – 12th place (60 points). Equal tenth place in Best and Fairest finish voting.
Tim Taranto – 14th place (57 points). Eighth place in Best and Fairest finish voting.
Adam Tomlinson – 18th place (46 points) Seventh place and best clubman in Best and Fairest finish voting.
Zac Williams – Despite not playing a single minute of the home-and-away season, places sixth in points during finals!

Player movement during the trade period
In: Relief for the salary cap crunch they’ve suffered under for a couple of years now.
Out: Rory Lobb, Tom Scully, Will Setterfield, and Dylan Shiel.
Current list of draft picks: #9, 11, and 19 (technically, three first rounders), 25, 52, and 89.

Dylan Shiel

(Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

2019 Roster Highlights
Defence: Aiden Corr, Phil Davis, Nick Haynes, Lachie Keeffe, Adam Kennedy, Heath Shaw, Sam Taylor, Adam Tomlinson, Zac Williams.
Midfielders: Stephen Coniglio, Matt DeBoer, Jeremy Finlayson, Jacob Hopper, Josh Kelly, Callan Ward, Lachie Whitfield.
In the Ruck: Dawson Simpson.
Forwards: Aiden Bonar, Jeremy Cameron, Brett Delidio, Toby Greene, Harry Himmelberg, Zac Langdon, Daniel Lloyd, Jon Patton, Tim Taranto.


Forecast for 2019
It depends on injuries again. If there’s something fundamental about the way they train, perhaps, that keeps bringing on these wide-ranging injuries, then they’ll keep occurring. And now, they’ve lost the depth they’ve had to keep marching on through them.

On the other hand, if they can get a full season from Kelly, from Greene, from Coniglio, from Cameron, from Davis, from Shaw, from Whitfield, from Ward, even Patton and Finlayson, they could finally break through that preliminary and semi-final ceiling and at least challenge for the title this year.

As an optimist, that’s the way I’d like to bet.

As a scientist at heart, I see a team whose roster has been decimated over the last two years and a repeating pattern of injuries, so we have them dropping out of finals altogether and finishing in 11th place, in a closely-knit bunch with North Melbourne, Geelong, and Fremantle out of the money.