GWS went hard at the trade table after a disappointing and challenging 2021 campaign. Despite some big losses, they stocked up on both experience and fresh NSW/ACT talent.
The Giants had a rough start to life in 2021, going down by five goals and eight goals to eventual finalists Fremantle and Adelaide respectively.
While they bounced back to win four of their next six games, their slow start compounded by an agonising one point loss saw the Giants miss finals after their maiden series the year before.
Their win against St Kilda in the pouring rain at RSEA Park was one of the gutsiest of the entire season, bouncing back from two losses straight to get their year back on track.
Spearheads Cora Staunton and Rebecca Privitelli starred with three goals apiece, while young midfield star and club best and fairest winner Alyce Parker racked up 28 disposals and six clearances.
With damaging losses to Fremantle, Adelaide, and Brisbane, it was clear GWS was a touch below the top teams in 2021.
What to look forward to:
This is GWS’ last season as the only team in New South Wales, with the Sydney Swans entering the competition next season with a record number of members already.
As such, the Giants had access to the NSW/ACT draft pool unchallenged for the final time. They’ll reap the benefits of Sydney’s academy work, drafting multiple members of their academy.
Unfortunately they’ll likely lose one if not all of those players by the end of the year, but there’s an exciting opportunity to see what the next generation of homegrown talent can do.
Jess Doyle brings ready made leadership and maturity to the forward line as a teenager, renowned as a strong lead up marker and excellent set shot.
Ally Morphett is a born and bred Giant however, an exciting ruck prospect from the academy who can rotate up forward. Her natural athleticism perfectly complements Erin McKinnon’s elite tap work.
Brodee Mowbray adds pure speed and drive to the midfield, a huge addition to a side that lost some of its best ball users in this year’s trade period.
Biggest unanswered question:
Can the Giants score effectively outside of Irish dynamo Cora Staunton? It’s a question that’s been asked of the club since the competition’s inaugural season.
They’ve lacked notable goalkickers for the past few seasons, and haven’t looked to alleviate this problem immediately through trades.
Draftee and Swans academy captain Jess Doyle will be a welcome addition to the forward line, but is often best utilised as a ball-winning half forward, doing more delivering inside 50 than scoring herself.
Of the best 21 we’ve named, only Staunton and Rebecca Privitelli have kicked double figures for goals across their AFLW careers so far, Staunton with 29 and Privitelli with 12.
GWS kicked 33 goals last year, with 10 of those coming from Staunton. It was a step in the right direction, with contributions coming from further afield as well.
Rebecca Beeson and the departed Jess Dal Pos kicked a goal apiece in the win over West Coast, but in their two biggest wins for the year (against West Coast and St Kilda), Staunton kicked three and four goals respectively.
When she doesn’t fire, the Giants don’t fire. More reliability inside 50 from the supporting cast and a regular output from Privitelli (going goalless five times last season) will be needed if they want to compete with the best in 2022.
It’s a need that must be addressed for the future as well, as Staunton turned 40 just weeks ago.
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It’s a big year for…
The Giants’ midfield already struggled last year, and with Tarni Evans and Nicola Barr out for the beginning of the season, this puts a lot more pressure on Rebecca Beeson’s shoulders.
Beeson has always been a reliable part of the engine room, averaging 21 disposals as a bash and crash, contested ball-winning inside mid.
GWS already struggled to convert its strong clearance work to inside 50s last year, lacking a lot of classy disposal users to deliver inside 50. The loss of Elle Bennetts and Jess Dal Pos will only exacerbate this.
Alyce Parker, though a superstar, can only do so much by herself. New recruit Chloe Dalton adds more of an edge to the midfield, but similarly will have to work on her delivery by foot.
Whether the midfield can gel without its reliable outsiders will be determined largely by whether Beeson can fill the void left behind.
GWS hits the road for its first three fixtures to start 2022. Without two of its first choice midfielders for that period, it risks losing all three.
Travelling against 2021 finalists Fremantle, North Melbourne, and Melbourne is about as hard as it gets, while also hosting runner-up Adelaide at home in Blacktown. The only two finalists from last year the Giants miss are Collingwood and reigning premiers Brisbane.
The Giants will host at least two games at Henson Park, home of AFL Sydney women’s side the Newtown Breakaways and a historic cricketing and rugby league venue.
GWS will play one of these games against St Kilda, who it defeated last year, and will take plenty of confidence into that match up. It will also play Geelong and Gold Coast, also currently holding the winning edge over those two sides, but miss West Coast.
Last year’s meeting with Carlton came down to a one point loss, so Giants fans will be eagerly anticipating the chance for revenge. It will also be a chance for Chloe Dalton, Katie Loynes, and Jess Dal Pos to all meet their old sides.
R1: vs. Gold Coast, Jan 9 (Great Barrier Reef)
R2 vs. Fremantle, Jan 16 (Fremantle Oval)
R3 vs. North Melbourne, Jan 23 (Arden Street Oval)
R4 vs. Western Bulldogs, Jan 30 (Henson Park)
R5 vs. St Kilda, Feb 5 (Henson Park)
R6 vs. Melbourne, Feb 13 (Casey Fields)
R7 vs. Adelaide, Feb 19 (Blacktown International Sportspark)
R8 vs. Carlton, Feb 25 (Manuka Oval)
R9 vs. Richmond (TBC)
R10 vs. Geelong (TBC)
Ins: Chloe Dalton (Carlton), Katie Loynes (Carlton), Jasmine Grierson (North Melbourne), Ally Morphett (Murray Bushrangers), Jessica Doyle (Manly Warringah), Brodee Mowbray (Sutherland AFC), Georgina Fowler (East Coast Eagles), Casidhe Simmons (UNSW-Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs), Isadora McLeay (North Shore), Ally Dallaway (East Coast Eagles)
Outs: Sarah Halvorsen (delisted), Jodie Hicks (delisted), Britt Tully (delisted), Taylah Davies (delisted), Elle Bennetts (Western Bulldogs), Jess Dal Pos (Carlton), Aimee Schmidt (West Coast)
Inactive: Jessica Allan (army), Yvonne Bonner (pregnancy), Emily Goodsir (pregnancy), Isadora McLeay (injury)
Round 1 line-up:
Tarni Evans and Nicola Barr will likely both be unavailable for selection in Round 1 as they continue to recover from long-term injuries sustained in the pre-season, leaving the midfield depth relatively exposed.
We’ve chosen three debutants for the first match of the season, as well as the club debuts of Chloe Dalton, Katie Loynes, and Jasmine Grierson.
A poor start to the season could see everything collapse for the Giants early on, and with their remaining fixture, they’ll likely find it hard to recover.
They took a couple of strides last season, but still don’t look like a team with a profile and list that can be challenging for a flag, or even finals, this year.
We could easily be proven wrong, and the experience of Jasmine Grierson and Katie Loynes through the backline and midfield respectively could add that extra bit of leadership they need to take the next step.
It would be a disappointing end to the Giants’ time as the sole resident of NSW, likely set to lose talent both young and old come 12 months’ time.
Looking at what the likes of Fremantle, Brisbane, and Adelaide have been able to do while they were given unchallenged access to their draft pools can only see this year being a disappointing fizzling out for the inaugural Giants’ team.
However, coach Alan McConnell is one of the longest serving in the AFLW. His experience and time spent with the squad could see the Giants defy expectations.
With many teams that finished below them set to improve this year however, it could be another painful year for GWS.
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