Season 2020 may prove to be the end of an era of Shaw family involvement with the departure of Rhyce Shaw as the senior coach at North Melbourne, and the departure of younger brother Heath Shaw as a player at Greater Western Sydney.
Step one in solving a problem is admitting you have one in the first place. The GWS Giants have done just that.
Skipper Stephen Coniglio called them “hopeless”. Coach Leon Cameron labelled their performance “tripe”. Neither were wrong.
The horrific outing in the grand final last year should’ve been the poorest football the club produced. Their lowest score ever, it should have been impossible to crash to a lower mark than that.
And yet, they very nearly did.
Thursday night’s clash against Sydney was by far the Giants’ worst performance since the decider, and arguably even poorer than the drubbing by Richmond.
It was looking like a relatively simple encounter for GWS, who required a win to temporarily leapfrog Collingwood and Richmond and further solidify a top-eight position.
They were such heavy favourites coming into Thursday night’s clash that none of us on The Roar’s expert tipping panel had any qualms about picking them. I said they’ll “win by plenty”.
They had all-important momentum behind them. Three straight wins, compared with Sydney who’d lost six of their past seven games.
Cameron’s squad had a much more seasoned team – some 600-odd more games experience. Compared to their opposition, who had three players with under ten games to their name and a debutant, the Giants fielded a team considering almost entirely of players who played in the grand final.
This was the Giants’ game to lose. But, convention be damned, the Swans played like it was theirs to win – while missing much of their core like Josh Kennedy, Lance Franklin and Isaac Heeney.
Sydney were thrashed in inside 50s, lost the tackle count and were behind in the middle, losing clearances. Those aren’t numbers that a winning team would usually produce. But it’s emblematic of their opponents, who were simply putrid.
Accumulating plenty of entries but doing nothing with them, they allowed the Bloods’ defence to repel almost everything and, really, John Longmire’s men had control of the clash from the get-go. That the Swans had almost 50 more touches – both contested and not – is scarcely surprising.
The first half was particularly telling. Replicating their poor start against Essendon two weeks ago, the Giants were hapless early on. Thrashed around the ground in the first term, they allowed Sydney to replicate the Bombers, advantageously piling on the goals and creating a margin their opponents never looked a chance at reeling in.
Their first-half score of 1.3 (9) is what prompted Stephen Coniglio’s frank admission that his side had been hopeless. A rare statement from an on-field leader, Coniglio’s words were emblematic of a club that has consistently failed to live up to potential or expectations – never more so than last night.
GWS have won just one game against a team in the top eight this year (Geelong in Round 1) while sitting precariously in the eight – and are very likely to fall out of it by the conclusion of Round 12.
A fortnight ago, they did what good teams do and denied a bad team a chance to inflict an upset. On Thursday, they were a bad team. It doesn’t sit well with Cameron, who pledged “home truths” in a thorough review ahead of a dangerous clash against the Eagles.
There have been at least three occasions this year where Cameron has savaged his side. After the loss to North Melbourne, he claimed his squad “wasn’t hungry enough”. After a disruptive loss to the Lions, he claimed his side was a “rung off the top”. And after a loss to Port Adelaide, he claimed his side “didn’t want it enough”.
The issue with all those losses? They all came after strong wins for the Giants. They are stuck in a cycle; they have the ability to produce strong performances before crashing to tough losses – and making themselves continually vulnerable to scrutiny.
There’s something striking about a coach being thrust into a position where he has to admit his side doesn’t have the hunger to win on a semi-regular basis. Yet it’s becoming par for the course for GWS and Cameron.
That isn’t to suggest they are the only inconsistent team in the league this year; they’re not, and it’s difficult to pinpoint one which actually has genuine consistency.
Yet the Giants are close to the most disappointing with no easy excuse to pinpoint. For a team featuring so, so much talent, and with four consecutive years of finals experience behind them, the fact that they are struggling to even make the eight is ludicrous.
Cameron has been in this position before – as recently as July – but this year is beginning to feel different.