05/03/2024

2022 was a year of upheaval for GWS. (Photo: AFL; Design: Will Cuckson)

The overturning of a coach, expected departures of star young players and a bottom three finish capped off a disappointing season for the Giants.

Overall, it was a disappointing season for the AFL’s newest franchise, unable to live up to many pundits’ expectations for 2022.

Finishing position: 16th (six wins, 15 losses)

What worked?

A move down back for Harry Himmelberg at the midpoint of the season was a success, shifting his role to cover the loss of seasoned veteran Phil Davis.

Debutants such as 2021 first-round draft picks Leek Aleer and Finn Callaghan provided a bit of spark, exciting prospect Jacob Wehr won the Giants’ Rising Star Award.

Isaac Cumming cemented his spot in the side and took the next big strides into becoming a star rebounding half-back. The speedy light-framed defender averaged 23.5 disposals, playing all but one game.

Tom Green also impressed many with his first half of the season, and another preseason under his belt should see him become a truly elite young midfielder.

Some positives for the Giants included the indivual brilliance of Josh Kelly and Tim Taranto, the re-emergence of captain Stephen Coniglio, the development of Green, and Sam Taylor cementing himself as one of the top defenders in the league.

Both Kelly and Taylor earnt selection in the 40-man All-Australian squad, before the latter earned his first All-Australian team selection at centre half back. The 23-year-old has become a key cog in the Giants’ defence, becoming a first time winner of GWS club champion award, the Kevin Sheedy medal.

What didn’t?

A season that started without newly announced co-captain Greene, combined with the loss of Jeremy Finlayson up forward to Port Adelaide the and injury blow to Davis saw the Giants lacking height in key forward and defensive posts.

Greene was suspended for the first five matches, in a period which saw the club win just one match.

Electric small forward Bobby Hill‘s season was interrupted with a diagnosis of testicular cancer, which left the Giants bereft of forwards capable of impacting the scoreboard.

Even with Himmelberg shifting into the backline midway through the season, himself, Greene and Jesse Hogan were the only players able to kick 20 goals or more for the season.

This led to a collection of lacklustre performances early in the season, highlighted by a 36-point loss to Richmond, a 34-point loss to Fremantle, and a 67-point demolition against Melbourne.

The Giants struggled to get started in 2022. (Photo: GWS Giants)

GWS slumped to two wins and six losses before coach Leon Cameron was sacked after a 53-point defeat at the hands of Geelong.

Cameron was given one final farewell game as senior coach against Carlton in Round 9, with Mark McVeigh announced as interim coach until season’s end.

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Lowest point:

A 73-point loss in Round 20 to crosstown rivals Sydney would have been the lowest point for the Giants. It led to McVeigh unleashing on his players post-game, saying they had “checked out”.

The comments drew a lot of media attention, as he said only eight players “went to the wall”, with everyone else poor.

It was an understandable tipping point for the interim coach, with the Giants in freefall on a four-game losing streak at an average margin of 51-points.

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Highest point:

The Round 20 loss seemed to kick the Giants into gear, prompting their best three weeks of footy to end the season.

They would finish with a record of one win and two losses after beating the Bombers and playing competitively in matches against top eight teams, Western Bulldogs and Fremantle.

Showing a bit of dare and significantly higher skills than most of the rest of McVeigh’s tenure, the Giants were able to convert their fast starts into something more meaninful.

Even though they faded out against the Dogs and Dockers, it was clear improvement nonetheless.

Where to next?

Richmond assistant coach Adam Kingsley was announced as the club’s senior coach for 2023, finishing his commitments with his former club after it bowed out of finals against Brisbane.

Player retention becomes an apparent issue over the off-season with Hill and Tanner Bruhn rumoured to leave GWS for Victorian clubs, while Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper have requested trades to Richmond.

Develop more top end draft picks such as Aleer, Callaghan, and Xavier O’Halloran will be vital as the club looks to replace the retirement of Matt de Boer, the aging Davis, and the exodus of expected players.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Kingsley, as the Giants still have a senior core group of players that are established stars. Lachie Whitfield, Coniglio, Greene and Josh Kelly will be paired with stars ready to breakout like Cumming, Green, Taylor and Lachie Ash.

Giants fans should overlook the anticipated departures as they will be compensated heavily with draft picks. If executed correctly, a mini-rebuild may ensure a rise up the ladder with finals still very much a possibility in 2023.

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