After an encouraging start to the season for the Greater Western Sydney Giants, going 2-2, it would develop into another year of struggles.
Finishing position: 9th (four wins, six losses)
They would lose four of their last six games to ultimately miss out on the finals for the the second straight season. Injuries to key players resulted in the Giants being unable to field their strongest possible side for the majority of the season and were depleted come its end.
A strong area for the Giants was the productivity of ruck duo Erin McKinnon and Ally Morphett, who finished the 2022 AFLW season amongst the top rucks of the competition.
The Giants finished third for season hit outs (261). Only the Gold Coast Suns and the Western Bulldogs amassed more from centre bounces and stoppages than McKinnon and Morphett.
Without Jessica Allan, McKinnon took over as the number one ruck for the Giants and produced her best season yet, averaging over 20 hit-outs for the first time in her career. She would also go on to break an AFLW record for most hit outs in a game.
Morphett also impressed in her first season at AFLW level and had a solid debut season after being drafted out of GWS’ academy.
As a result of their ruck dominance, the Giants were regularly getting first use out of the middle, with gun midfielders Alicia Eva and Alyce Parker having strong years.
An issue which has been prevalent far before 2022 was the lack of scoring options in the Giants forward line, with the side too reliant on Cora Staunton to kick goals.
Staunton – who’s been the general up forward for the past four years – once again finished the season as the side’s leading goal scorer, kicking 18 goals for the season. Only Adelaide’s Ashleigh Woodland scored more goals this season.
With the Giants kicking 44 goals collectively over the 10 rounds this season, Staunton was responsible for 40 per cent of those score. The next three top goal kickers for the Giants, Nicola Barr and Jessica Doyle, both kicked five goals, while Louise Stephenson kicked three.
With a lack of contributors up forward, the Giants finished the season with the sixth worst scoring record in the AFLW.
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Midfield guns Alicia Eva and Alyce Parker were unsurprisingly amongst the top players this season for the Giants, with the duo having impressive seasons in a trying year.
Captaining GWS for the third straight season, Eva had a career best year, amassing 179 disposals in ten games. She also led the Giants for disposals per game and was just as good defensively, leading the side for tackles with 64.
Meanwhile Parker finished the season with 168 disposals, finishing as the Giants second best ball winner and led the clearances, finishing with 44.
Nicola Barr was also impressive, having played predominantly as a defender her whole career, she would rotate through both the midfield and the forward line in 2022.
Having missed parts of the 2021 season, she’d feature in every game in 2022, finishing amongst GWS’ top ball winners. She led the Giants for marks and was second in score involvements. Having never kicked a goal in her career prior to 2022, she’d finally get off the mark, kicking five goals.
The aforementioned Staunton had another stellar season up forward for the Giants, and while others around her couldn’t impact the scoreboard, the Irish native had no issues with finishing the season with her best goal record yet.
First year players Ally Morphett and Jess Doyle showed signs of promise, with the duo having an impact in the ruck and up forward in their first AFLW seasons.
Highs and lows
A highlight for the Giants would be their victory over the Western Bulldogs in Round 4. It was one of their best wins of the season, playing in their home state for the first time in over 300 days.
The Giants didn’t come into the game at full strength, with Pepa Randall, Chloe Dalton, Rebecca Privitelli, Georgia Garnett and Katie Loynes all out, yet ran out 21-point victors in their most dominant performance of the season.
Another notable performance of the season was their 18 point win over Geelong in the final round of the season, recording one of club’s most memorable AFLW wins.
With injuries taking its toll, the Giants were playing far from their best side, missing Rebecca Beeson, Alyce Parker and Chloe Dalton. Fielding an inexperienced side, the Giants still recorded their biggest score of the season (53) and ended their season on a high.
Their lowest points of the season came in Rounds 5 and 6. Coming against the two in-form teams of the competition, the Giants would lose by an average margin of 38 points and would only score a single goal in both games.
A similar pattern would occur in both games, with the Giants remaining competitive in the first half before fading out in the third and fourth quarters.
Who’s on the move?
Though having just spent her first season with the Giants, exciting youngster Jess Doyle could be on the move to join crosstown rivals the Sydney Swans. She was a highly touted prospect of their academy before being drafted to the Giants.
Having been previously affiliated with the Swans, it’ll be likely the club will be looking to bring her back across ahead of Sydney’s inaugural AFLW season.
Previously the only team based out of New South Wales in the AFLW competition till this year, the Giants have had the luxury of recruiting the best talent out of the state, especially in the Sydney area, though now may lose more than just Doyle ahead of the Swans recruiting period.
During the offseason the Giants need to address their scoring issues. As Staunton turns 41 later this year the club can no longer be heavily reliant on the veteran to deliver, and will need to look for long-term options.
Whether tactically the Giants change things up during the offseason and become more dimensional or whether it’s through bringing in more attacking talent to the club, their forward line is an area which needs to be addressed.
It’s also imperative the Giants retain their midfield group, as their midfield and ruck stocks are the strongest areas the club has.
With Eva speaking on her loyalty to the club postgame, it seems highly unlikely she won’t be a Giant next season, but the club will need to make it a priority to also retain Alyce Parker. Only 21, she is one of the stars of the competition and a key player the side can’t afford to let go.
Also having made for a formidable partnership, the club should be looking to keep aforementioned ruck duo McKinnon and Morphett.
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