Despite a first round loss to Adelaide, GWS looked every bit a genuine premiership contender, winning 11 of its first 14 games.
Yet another injury crisis hit the side through the middle of the year as a form slump threatened their place in September. A late rally in the second half of the season ensured they would play finals but they struggled to make any impact when they got there.
Despite having many of their first-choice 22 available for finals, the Giants could only manage to win one of their three September matches with a comfortable win over West Coast in the semi-final.
The Giants’ form was erratic at times this season, with clusters of wins and clusters of losses making them a hard side to read.
In Round 10 the Giants’ travelled west and emerged with their first ever victory over the Eagles.
The lead changed hands seven times in the final quarter before GWS finally took control of the game with about five minutes on the clock.
It was a big win for the young Giants who proved to themselves that they could win without several of their big stars.
A recurring theme of GWS’ season was lapses at key stages of games. Their final round loss to Geelong stands out as they limped into finals with a 44-point defeat. Going into the game, they had the chance to book a home preliminary final with a solid showing, but an abysmal third quarter was enough to condemn them to an away trip to Adelaide for week one of the finals.
Most improved/Best and fairest: Josh Kelly
Josh Kelly was far and away the Giants’ most valuable and important player this season. The 22-year-old midfielder took his game to another level, finishing the season averaging 29.5 disposals, 6.5 tackles, 11 contested possessions and 19 uncontested possessions per game.
His efforts were recognised with his first All-Australian selection, his first Kevin Sheedy Medal and a sixth-placed finish in the Brownlow Medal, 10 votes more than his nearest teammate.
Kelly’s phenomenal season saw him offered mega-deals worth upwards of $1 million a season, reportedly from North Melbourne, St Kilda, Carlton and Essendon. He rejected these offers, eventually staying loyal to the Giants as they chase their first premiership., singing a two-year contract extension.
Kelly will only build on these performances and it won’t be hard to believe that his next contract could even be worth close to double the amount he was offered this year.
What the off-season could look like:
GWS’ cap squeeze seems to be hitting them hard with several players asking for trades. Nathan Wilson, Devon Smith and Matthew Kennedy have nominated Fremantle, Essendon and Carlton respectively as their preferred clubs.
Having lost their first-round selection because of the Lachie Whitfield saga, GWS’ first pick in this year’s draft is 23, received from Collingwood last year. They will need to extract maximum value from their departing trio. Nick Shipley shapes as their most promising academy prospect but is not likely to be a top pick.
2018 crystal ball:
After falling short of the grand final yet again, GWS will be desperate to break their preliminary final hoodoo sooner rather than later.
Injuries have stuttered both of their previous campaigns but the club still has a list able to compete for premiership glory for years to come.
A premiership will still be the aim for this young side and with quality all over the park, they should easily secure their third consecutive top four finish. Whether they will have learnt from their two previous finals experiences and can go one better in September is hard to tell.
But will almost certainly be there or thereabouts come the pointy end of finals.