The Giants’ 2019 season came crashing to an end when they were comprehensively flogged by Richmond, who achieved the third greatest winning margin in a grand final on Saturday.
Whilst it was a salutary lesson for Greater Western Sydney on how high the top of the tree can be – even if you are sitting on the second highest branch – it may stand the club in good stead as it continues its quest to become a powerhouse in the AFL.
As I wrote in my article after the Tigers were bundled out of the 2018 finals in a preliminary final by Collingwood, “A slight tweak of the list, combined with a stinging desire to atone for their humbling exit from the 2018 finals series, should be sufficient for the Tigers to again be there at the pointy end of 2019.”
This proved to be the case and the Tigers, sans Alex Rance, played to the top of their form. And whilst any other finalist may have been more competitive in the grand final, it is hard to imagine any team beating them on the day.
The Giants had their best year ever by dint of making the grand final, but they won fewer games during the home-and-away season than they did in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and finished in sixth place.
In the first week of the finals they beat the Western Bulldogs convincingly at home by 58 points before going on the road to beat Brisbane by three points at the Gabba and Collingwood by four points at the MCG.
This was a tough assignment and most football followers feared the worst when the Giants came up against the might of Richmond.
Their finals record is now six wins and five losses and it is the first year where this stat has passed 50 per cent. Although most of their games were blowout wins or losses, the Giants showed their newfound toughness by winning five of their six games that were decided by one goal or less.
For the first time the club had a player who had only ever played for the Giants make it into the AFL top 100 when Jeremy Cameron broke into the top 100 all time goal-kickers, passing the 400-goal mark and finishing the year in 96th position.
The club still retains ten of their original 2012 debutants and despite the loss of their co-captain Callan Ward in his first game for the season and the less-than-20-games return GWS got from Toby Greene, Stephen Coniglio, Lachie Whitfield and Josh Kelly, the club still had four players who played everyone of the 26 games possible, and introduced seven new players, four of whom were born after the turn of the millennium.
The club gradually buried the ghosts of the three S defectors – Dylan Shiel, Tom Scully and Devon Smith – to such an extent that only Dylan Shiel remains in the top ten game-players at the club, now tied with Heath Shaw in equal sixth place.
The Giants are still brim full of talent. The question is where will their inglorious finish to the season take them psychologically?