15/04/2024
GWS Giants Season Preview 2022

GWS Giants 2022 season preview. Photo: GWS Giants

The Greater Western Sydney Giants defied the odds in 2021 not only making the finals but winning one. Can they go a few steps further in 2022?

After an injury-ravaged season in 2021, The GWS Giants defied the odds in not only making the finals but winning their elimination final. They will be looking to take the next step this season to threaten for a Grand Final berth.

Last year:

7th, 11-1-10, 99.7%

After starting the season 0-3, calls were quickly being made for the sacking of coach Leon Cameron. Despite injuries and suspensions to key players throughout the season, the Giants managed to blood enough youth who were able to impact the team in a positive way. Cameron would have been elated with the improvement shown by players such as Isaac Cumming, and Sam Taylor, both making a significant contribution in key wins throughout the season.

The senior players also continued to contribute strongly, with midfielder Josh Kelly winning the club’s best and fairest award, and fellow midfielders Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper finishing in the top five – all of whom helped contribute to the positive season.

Hopper was rewarded for his efforts with a spot in the 40-man All Australian squad.

The home and away season highlight was easily the unlikely win down in Geelong. The Giants lost a whopping 942 games of experience in the lead-up to the game and lost Kelly before the bounce, but that didn’t stop the youngsters, along with a phenomenal game from All-Australian Toby Greene, storming to a 38-point lead before holding on for a tight win.

Cameron described the win as the bravest he had seen during his time at the Giants.

Covid restrictions in Sydney meant the Giants played five ‘home’ games away from Sydney and finished off the season on the road for more than 10 weeks. To make the finals given this situation was nothing short of astounding.

Their first final was against arch-rivals Sydney in Launceston, and despite going in as underdogs, the Giants led by five goals early in the third term. The Swans came with a late charge, but the Giants’ defence help up to record a historic one-point win.

It was clear in their semi-final loss to Geelong in Perth by 35 points that the side has run out of steam. Nevertheless, a semi-final finish considering all the injuries and changes to the side can be seen as a successful season.

Post-season, the club farewelled bullocking ruckman Shane Mumford (again) as well as original Giant Matthew Buntine and journeyman Sam Reid.

Ins:

Finn Callaghan (Pick 3 – Sandringham Dragons), Leek Aleer (Pick 15 – Central Districts), Josh Fahey (Pick 42, GIANTS Academy, Queanbeyan FC), Cooper Hamilton (Rookie Draft – Bendigo Pioneers), Jarrod Brander (Delisted Free Agent – West Coast Eagles)

Outs:

Jeremy Finlayson (Traded – Port Adelaide), Shane Mumford (Retired), Matthew Buntine (Delisted), Sam Reid (Delisted), Tom Hutchesson (Delisted), Nick Shipley (Delisted).

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Track watch:

Braydon Preuss is fit and training the house down after an injury-ravaged 2021 saw him miss his entire first season in Sydney due to shoulder and pectoral muscle injuries. The club will be hoping that he can get to Round 1 fit and healthy and lead the club’s developing ruck outfit.

Greene has a point to prove to his teammates after receiving an upgraded five-match suspension and is training strongly despite his forced delayed start to the season. Come Round 6, he should be fired up and ready for a strong showing.

Promising young forward Zach Sproule sustained a shoulder injury and will not be available for selection until closer to the middle of the year. Small forward Brent Daniels suffered an unfortunate injury to the Lisfrance joint in his foot during a recent training session and will be sidelined for the early stages of 2022.

Lachlan Keefe (shoulder) and Jack Buckley (ACL) are also on varied training programs due to long-term injuries.

What to look forward to:

The Continued Youth Development

Career-best years for Sam Taylor, Isaac Cumming, Harry Perryman, and Tom Green give Giants supporters hope that, with further improvement, the club can go a step or two better in 2022.

If Taylor and Cumming improve further, the pressure on stalwart defenders Phil Davis and Nick Haynes to play vital roles each week will ease and give the Giants the best chance of keeping sides to an attainable score.

Promising glimpses have been shown by second-year players Lachlan Ash and Jake Riccardi. The natural progression in their game will put pressure on senior players for spots, which can only be a good thing for the side’s finals aspirations.

The Giants’ draft haul also has much promise. It is hoped Pick 3 Callaghan will be able to have an almost immediate impact. His ability to play both inside and outside mid and use his silky left-footed skills should excite Giants fans.

Kenyan-born Pick 15 Aleer broke the draft combine’s all-time vertical jump record and has excited fans playing in the SANFL and with continued rapid learning he could provide an x-factor down back later in the season.

It’s a big year for:

Stephen Coniglio – Since signing a seven-year deal at the end of 2019, the Giants captain has struggled with his form and injuries, with many questioning his place in the team’s best 23. He has been backed in as one of the club’s three co-captains (Kelly and Greene join him in the position) and he will be hopeful he can return to his form of 2019.

Braydon Preuss – After joining the Giants at the beginning of last year, Preuss failed to play a game in 2021. The club has high expectations on him to shoulder the rucking responsibility whilst youngsters Matt Flynn and Kieran Briggs are still learning their craft.

Biggest unanswered question:

How will the Giants consistently kick a winning score?

Jesse Hogan managed just nine games in his first season as a Giant last year, and Harry Himmelberg, whilst solid, is yet to step up to be the number one forward in his six seasons. Jeremy Finlayson has also departed the club and Greene is unavailable until round 6.

Small forwards Bobby Hill, Daniel Lloyd, and Daniels have shown flashes of brilliance, but consistent scoreboard production is not their main game and Daniels is out for the early part of the season due to injury. So the biggest question is how does this forward line best function to produce a winning score each week?

It may take some creative work from the coach, as we saw last year, with Tim Taranto being trialled up forward. Otherwise, more is going to be needed quickly from youngster Jake Riccardi and new recruit Jarrod Brander.

Coach pressure index:

Medium to High

The heat has been on coach Leon Cameron for a couple of years now, particularly following the Giants’ poor result (10th) in 2020. The fact that he was able to turn his side’s fortunes around and make the semi-final in 2021 should give the club confidence he is the right man for the job.

However, after eight seasons, if the club starts the season in a similar fashion to last year, the pressure will be right on Cameron.

Predicted Round 1 lineup:

Ladder range:

5th – 8th

The mixture of youth and experience means that injuries will again have an impact on the club’s finishing position. Youngsters Ash, Perryman, Green, and Riccardi will need to continue to improve to see the Giants rise further up the ladder, with further improvement from a potentially dynamic midfield of Coniglio, Hopper, Taranto, Ward, and Kelly also a must.

In all likelihood, the amount of youth on the park each week will mean inconsistent results, and a finals berth again would be a successful stepping stone as players continue to develop.

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