Back in 2015, as the Giants were coming good, you couldn’t throw a shoe without hitting someone in the footy community who was fearfully predicting GWS were about to become an unstoppable juggernaut.
Fresh in the Hawks’ three-peat, it seemed we’d simply transition from one dynasty to another.
Of course it didn’t happen that way, with the next three flags being won by three different teams in varying forms of holy-crap-how-did-that-happen-ness.
But while they haven’t yet tasted the ultimate success, GWS have quietly become a force to be reckoned with.
The list of teams to have won a final in the each of the past four seasons consists of one team: the Giants. Their three preliminary final appearances in that stretch is matched only by the Tigers.
In 2019, when salary cap pressure and player movement constantly try to level the playing field, GWS is exactly what a powerful, sustainable football club looks like.
They get dismissed because they had such a leg up at the start, but so did the Suns – how’s that working out on the Gold Coast?
Plenty of quality players have left GWS for either more money, for more opportunity, to be closer to ‘home’ or for some combination, but I can’t recall a single one of them saying a bad word about their time in western Sydney.
And there has been no shortage of them given the chance to do so: Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel, Taylor Adams, Nathan Wilson, Rory Lobb, Jack Steele, Tom Boyd, Tom Scully, Carlton.
Whatever ‘good culture’ looks like – and it’s always tough to judge from outside the walls – the Giants seem to have it. The word ‘franchise’ – spew – was thrown around plenty when they were formed, but this is a club.
It doesn’t hurt that they’re still loaded with premium talent.
Stephen Coniglio, Josh Kelly, Jeremy Cameron, Lachie Whitfield and Toby Greene are five of the best 25 footballers in the country.
Phil Davis isn’t far outside that and is in the best handful of key defenders in the competition. He wouldn’t have been out of place in this year’s All Australian team, nor would have his partner in crime, Nick Haynes.
Zac Williams is apparently a gun inside-out onballer masquerading as a dashing half-back and just put in one of the best individual performances of this finals series.
In Brent Daniels they’ve finally got a smart, natural small forward instead of trying to force a round peg into a square hole because they had too many gun onballers and didn’t know what to do with them.
If you want to play fast and open, they can beat you in a shootout. If you want to make it ugly, they’ve shown they’re more than happy to get their hands dirty – sometimes a little too dirty.
They’re versatile, balanced, tough and talented, and Heath Shaw and Shane Mumford are the only members of their grand final side who have celebrated their 30th birthday.
Each time they lose a quality player they seem to bring in another.
GWS had four picks in the top 24 of last year’s draft, so chances are at least one of those kids will emerge in the next couple of seasons. They have Essendon’s first-round pick as well as their own, and better judges than me suggest Tom Green, who is part of their academy, is one of the five best prospects in this year’s draft.
The Giants might fall just short of the grand prize tomorrow because Richmond are a mighty side and because winning premierships is bloody hard, but win or lose, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
That big, big sound you hear is the penny dropping for all the Greater Western Sydney sceptics.