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Opinion

Four burning questions for GWS ahead of the AFL restart

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29th May, 2020
26

A stunning run through September saw the Giants make their first grand final last year, before they were obliterated by the all-conquering Tigers.

It was a shellacking for the ages, with Greater Western Sydney posting the lowest grand final score (3.7) since Collingwood put just 2.2 past Melbourne in 1960.

How much that will scar the Giants, or spur them on, this season will be one of the most interesting story lines.

Here are four burning questions for GWS ahead of the rest of the season.

1. How much does the grand final embarrassment hurt?

I can’t remember the last time I saw a team so clearly overawed by the occasion. Despite holding their own in a tense first quarter and kicking the first goal, the Giants looked like they didn’t belong in the same competition as their opposition after that.

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Almost everyone in an orange jumper had their colours lowered, with the second tier in particular being exposed badly.

Unfortunately, history is not kind to teams who get thumped in a decider. Since 2000, seven teams have lost the grand final by 40 points or more. Four of those sides missed the finals the next season, while the other three didn’t win a final once there.

It’s a worrying stat, but the Giants strike me as much more similar to one of those runners-up than the others: the 2015 West Coast Eagles.

They lost a home elimination final to the Bulldogs in 2016 but, just two years later, were lifting the cup.

The Giants are much younger than some of those unsuccessful grand finalists too, and with Stephen Coniglio and Callan Ward returning, have plenty of upside yet.

Harry Perryman of the Giants (L) celebrates with Jeremy Cameron (R)

The Giants started this season superbly. (Photo by Matt King/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

2. Is Stephen Coniglio one hundred per cent?

It was one of the strangest injury sagas last season, with the star midfielder ruled out for ‘one more week’ about seven times and playing no part in the club’s finals campaign.

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Knee injuries are nothing to sneeze at, especially for a 26-year-old you just re-signed for seven years and have clearly marked as your number one man over players you’ve let go in Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel and Devon Smith.

I don’t know if the long layoff post-Round 1 helps or not, but it was clear ‘Cogs’ was still finding his way back into it against the Cats. He was far from cold – 19 disposals, six clearances and two goals – but the Giants will need him firing on all cylinders with last year’s best and fairest Tim Taranto still some time away.

One player who definitely benefits from the hiatus is Callan Ward, with the ex-skipper not playing since Round 4 last year. At 30, the ACL injury might be difficult to fully recover from, but him being fully fit gives GWS a very good chance of claiming the flag.

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3. Is our premiership window opening or closing?

For the first time in club history, very few of the club’s shining lights are in the 25 and under age bracket. There’s still quality there – Taranto (22) and Jacob Hopper (23) the main attractions – but most of the list is in the prime of their career.

It’s great from a ‘win now’ point of view, but it also means the famed orange well might finally be drying up.

That said, there aren’t too many players in the over 30 bracket either, with Heath Shaw (34), Matt de Boer (30) and Ward (30) the only members of that cohort I’d be worried about losing.

I said earlier that GWS are still a flag chance for the next few seasons, so the window isn’t closing up just yet. But they’re getting older, and for a side with a bit of history with injury, they don’t quite have the enviable depth to call upon anymore either.

While they’re set for several years of competitiveness as it stands, it might not be retirements or injuries that stop them from building that dynasty…

Phil Davis

Some of GWS’ best players don’t have much time left. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

4. How the hell do we re-sign everyone?

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Re-signing Coniglio was a massive boon last year, but Leon Cameron and co. have an absolute nightmare contract negotiation period coming up with several key players.

The big fish is obviously eight-time club goal-kicking leader and reigning Coleman medalist Jeremy Cameron. Of course, he’s already decided to put off contract talks until season’s end. He’ll be a restricted free agent too.

The Dartmoor native will get linked to just about every Victorian club, so get your bingo cards ready because this will be a saga to remember.

It doesn’t end there, however. Zac Williams is also set to hit free agency and, after an incredible 2019, will be a hot commodity too.

Working in GWS’ favour there is Williams being a New South Wales boy and the first ever Giants Academy graduate. They’ll be hoping other out-of-contract local boys in Jeremy Finlayson, Daniel Lloyd and Harry Perryman – who started his contract year with a career-best performance – take a hometown discount too.

Matt de Boer also comes out of contract this season and, at 30, could be in an interesting position, while Western Australia native Zac Langdon’s name could come up after he fell out of favour last season.