A stunning run through September saw the Giants make their first grand final last year, before they were obliterated by the all-conquering Tigers.
This week, the AFL website compiled a virtual team made-up of former Greater Western Sydney players now at different clubs. The Giants hit back by fielding their current best 22.
And GWS have one of the most talented sides in the AFL.
Hey @AFL, we see your 22 and raise you with our current 22.
Got a venue available?
— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) April 6, 2020
This got me thinking – who would win the ultimate intraclub match?
The current side, which made the grand final last year only to be humiliated by Richmond, or the once-were-Giants who have flourished elsewhere – and in the case of Jacob Townsend tasted the ultimate success?
Ahead of the club’s entry into the competition in 2012, the Giants stockpiled on some of the best talent in the draft, many of whom have gone on to become superstars.
Among these names include Jonathan Patton, Toby Greene, Jeremy Cameron, Stephen Coniglio, Dom Tyson, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Nick Haynes, Adam Tomlinson, Taylor Adams, Devon Smith, Dylan Shiel and Adam Treloar, among many others.
Joining them at the club were experienced heads Chad Cornes, Luke Power and James Macdonald as well as up-and-comers Phil Davis (the first player to sign with the club), Callan Ward, Rhys Palmer and Tom Scully.
Unlike the Gold Coast Suns, which aggressively chased Gary Ablett Jr while he was the peak of his powers in 2010, the Giants deliberately targeted players who were still in their infancy, believing the club would extract the best out of them in the middle of their careers.
Davis has become one of the premier defenders in the competition, Scully produced his best football before suffering an ankle injury in 2018 and then being traded to Hawthorn, and Ward became a fearless leader before suffering an ACL injury in Round 4 last year.
When Davis and Ward were appointed co-captains of the club in February 2012, Davis had amassed 18 games for the Adelaide Crows and Ward 60 for the Western Bulldogs.
By contrast, while Ablett continued his impressive individual form on the Gold Coast – winning four club best and fairests and a second Brownlow Medal in 2013 – his time on the holiday strip was beset by injury, and he eventually returned to Geelong after the 2017 season.
It goes to show that to achieve team success, everyone needs to play their role.
Success was hard to come by for the Giants in their early years, winning only three games across their first two seasons, with the second and third wins separated by 21 matches.
During this time, Jeremy Cameron was selected as the club’s first-ever All Australian in 2013 and kicking 62 goals to finish third in the Coleman Medal race.
As the Giants climbed the ladder, the competition for places in their best 22 became hotly contested, and several players requested trades.
Jack Hombsch played in the club’s inaugural match before finding himself at Port Adelaide in 2013, where he played in their preliminary final loss to Hawthorn at the MCG a year later.
He and Anthony Miles (via Richmond) now find themselves at the Suns, making the pair the first players to play for both expansion clubs.
Taylor Adams was another notable departure at the end of 2013, joining Collingwood as part of the trade that sent premiership defender Heath Shaw north.
Joining Adams in the black and white two years later was Adam Treloar, who was just about to reach peak form when he made the decision to move south at the end of the 2015 season, in which saw the Giants evenly divided their season at 11 wins and 11 losses.
Also leaving the Giants at the end of 2015 was Jacob Townsend, who was traded to Richmond and would later become the first inaugural Giant to play in and win a grand final, when the Tigers thrashed the Adelaide Crows by 48 points in the 2017 decider.
The year before that, Tom Boyd became the first ex-Giant to also feature in an AFL premiership-winning team, when he kicked a crucial goal in the Western Bulldogs’ 22-point win over the Sydney Swans.
Boyd had been drafted to GWS as the number one pick in 2013, but just 12 months later packed his bags and moved to the Whitten Oval in the same blockbuster trade that saw ex-Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen move to the Harbour City.
James Stewart, Devon Smith and Dylan Shiel left the NSW capital in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively, and now find themselves reunited at Essendon, which also now has Andrew Phillips (via Carlton) and Townsend (via Richmond) on their list.
That saw the Dons overtake Carlton as the club with the most ex-Giants on their playing list going into the 2020 season – the four ex-GWS players at Princes Park being Caleb Marchbank, Matt Kennedy, Lachie Plowman and Will Setterfield.
Of the other clubs, none of the Adelaide Crows, Brisbane Lions, Geelong Cats, Port Adelaide, Richmond, Sydney Swans and West Coast Eagles have former Giants on their playing lists, and none played for either the Cats or Swans after their stint at GWS.
However, Shane Mumford did play for the Cats (2008-09), and then the Swans (2012-13), before joining the Giants prior to the 2014 season.
The best of the former GWS players
Curtly Hampton, Jake Barrett, Jack Hombsch, Jacob Townsend, Josh Bruce and Jonathan Giles
Now we turn our attention to the present Giants’ best 22, from which Phil Davis, Callan Ward, Stephen Coniglio, Toby Greene, Jeremy Cameron and Adam Kennedy are the only survivors from the side that played their inaugural match against the Sydney Swans in 2012.
This six shared the humiliating defeats the club suffered in their infant years, but stuck to the course.
Greene and Cameron have both been named All Australians, while the latter won his first Coleman Medal last year after kicking 67 majors during the regular season. Cameron was also one of only three players to kick a goal for the Giants in their grand final loss to Richmond.
The 27-year-old has also led the club’s goal-kicking in every year since their entry into the AFL, despite missing several games through injury and suspension in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Coniglio was on course to make his first All Australian team last year, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in Round 17. Late last year, he was appointed the club’s new captain, taking over from Phil Davis and Callan Ward.
The present Giants – featuring established players Nick Haynes, Lachie Whitfield, Zac Williams, Tim Taranto, Matt de Boer, Jeremy Finlayson, Josh Kelly and Aidan Corr – have played in four consecutive finals series.
Add to that the experience of Heath Shaw and Shane Mumford, the only two premiership players on the playing list, as well as Sam Jacobs, and the ingredients are there for a maiden premiership.
Of the current active finals streaks, only the West Coast Eagles have played in more consecutive series, having not missed September since 2014, while the Geelong Cats have also participated in the last four.
Further, Greater Western Sydney are the only side to have won at least one final in each of the past four years, and have won six of the 11 finals matches they have contested (two elimination finals, one qualifying final, two semi-finals and one preliminary final).
Now, we present you the current side, as listed by the AFL website, and the composite side made up of ex-players as named by the club on social media.
The 2020 GWS Giants best 22
Backs: Heath Shaw (309 AFL games, 136 for GWS), Sam Taylor (31), Nick Haynes (129)
Halfbacks: Zac Williams (102), Phil Davis (167, 149), Lachie Whitfield (134)
Centres: Callan Ward (217, 157), Stephen Coniglio (134) (c), Tim Taranto (63)
Half-forwards: Toby Greene (146), Jeremy Cameron (155), Matt de Boer (188, 50)
Forwards: Brent Daniels (34), Jeremy Finlayson (39), Harry Himmelberg (66)
Rucks/rovers: Sam Jacobs (202, 1), Josh Kelly (119), Jacob Hopper (68)
Interchange: Tom Green (1), Aidan Corr (84), Harry Perryman (37), Adam Kennedy (116)
Emergencies: Isaac Cumming (8), Daniel Lloyd (40), Shane Mumford (100, 92), Zac Langdon (25)
Coach: Leon Cameron
The ex-GWS Giants best 22
Backs: Lachie Plowman (20 games for GWS/95 AFL games), Jack Hombsch (9/116), Caleb Marchbank (7/48)
Halfbacks: Nathan Wilson (77/116), Sam Frost (21/92), Adam Tomlinson (140/141)
Centres: Dylan Shiel (135/158), Adam Treloar (79/163), Tom Scully (121/174)
Half-forwards: Will Hoskin-Elliott (52/120), Rory Lobb (74/90), Devon Smith (109/139)
Forwards: Jonathan Patton (89/90), Josh Bruce (14/114), Jacob Townsend (28/49)
Rucks/rovers: Andrew Phillips (14/41), Taylor Adams (31/133) (c), Jack Steele (17/79)
Interchange: Paul Ahern (0/19), Dom Tyson (13/110), Will Setterfield (2/21), Cam McCarthy (21/70)
Emergencies: James Stewart (18/45), Matt Kennedy (19/41), Aiden Bonar (6/6), Anthony Miles (10/88)
Coach: Matthew Nicks (currently head coach of the Adelaide Crows)
2020 GWS side: 2 (Heath Shaw, Shane Mumford)
Ex-GWS side: 1 (Jacob Townsend)
Most capped player
2020 GWS side: Heath Shaw (309 games, 136 with GWS)
Ex-GWS side: Tom Scully (174 games, 121 with GWS)
Most capped Giants player
2020 GWS side: Callan Ward (157 games)
Ex-GWS side: Dylan Shiel (135 games)
Total AFL games
2020 GWS side: 2,541 games (2,714 including emergencies)
Ex-GWS side: 2,178 games (2,358 including emergencies)
Average AFL games
2020 GWS side: 115.5 AFL games (104.4 including emergencies)
Ex-GWS side: 99 AFL games (90.7 including emergencies)
Total Giants games
2020 GWS side: 1,951 games (2,116 including emergencies)
Ex-GWS side: 1,073 games (1,126 including emergencies)
Average Giants games
2020 GWS side: 88.7 games (81.4 including emergencies)
Ex-GWS side: 48.77 games (43.3 including emergencies)
The 2020 GWS side by 24 points.