Once seen as a feeding trough for rivals, GWS are managing to turn the trend of losing out in bidding wars for their own star figures and instead build their list from the ground up again.

The Giants have bid farewell to best and fairest winners, a Coleman medallist and as many as 14 top 10 draft selections  - two of which were first-overall picks - since their existence.

Last year's off-season presented another nightmare chapter for the AFL's youngest club in their fight, losing both Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper to Richmond after a six-win campaign where they departed with coach Leon Cameron.

Stunningly, 11 months on, the Giants find themselves as one of the form teams of the competition under Adam Kingsley, who has his side on a club-record seven-game winning run and favoured to finish in the top third of the ladder by season's end.

While their rise and the return of the 'Orange Tsunami' is likely to have played a part, the Giants' fruit-bearing campaign has only been buoyed further by the buy-in from their playing group, both on and off the field.

Entering 2023, a large assignment for Kingsley and football boss Jason McCartney was on the contract front, with free agent Harry Himmelberg, off-contract onballer Tom Green, dashing defender Lachie Ash and sophomore Finn Callaghan all former first-round picks and all unsigned beyond this season.

Despite his ties to the Giants as an Academy graduate, Green was looming as the next big fish in the sights of interstate clubs, only for the contested bull to recommit on a four-year deal on the eve of the new season and just his fourth with GWS.

Just four days after Green's future was confirmed, Callaghan - top three pick with just five games to his name - re-signed with the Giants until 2025 and was murmured to have done so amid further external interest.

With their two midfielders for the future locked away, attention and speculation surrounding their restricted free agent in Himmelberg only grew stronger, with the Giants in a losing battle to retain their Academy alumni.

Neighbours Sydney were heavily tied to the 27-year-old, while Richmond, Collingwood and Brisbane were said to be circling the latest blue-chip Giant potentially on offer as his own club tabled a long-term extension.

That deal, the length of six more seasons, was signed on Thursday to see Himmelberg locked away until the end of 2029 - a move that came weeks after Ash penned his own extension until 2025.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 16: Harry Himmelberg of the Giants takes a spectacular over James Sicily of the Hawks in the dying seconds during the 2023 AFL Round 05 match between the GWS Giants and the Hawthorn Hawks at Norwood Oval on April 16, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The direction the club is set on under Kingsley's gaze was a key part in Ash's decision to re-sign, and the same could be said for Green, Callaghan and Himmelberg, the latter of which being a significant factor in how this year's trade space is set to play out.

The market for key defenders is arguably the busiest through this year's player movement space, rivalling the non-stop 'ruck merry-go-round', with Himmelberg one of the headlining figures prior to his re-signing.

Interest from the Swans and Lions came amid their own battle to glue together a premiership-contending rearguard, while both Collingwood and Richmond might've been in the race for Himmelberg, given his ability to swing forward.

So how do each of these clubs pivot from their failed pursuit?

The Swans' priority target has come in the shape of contracted Eagle Tom Barrass, with the premiership defender strongly floated as a trade piece at West Coast as the club looks to lure in high-end draft selections.

Brisbane, who have tied up breakout defender in Jack Payne until 2029, are likely to remain in the market for an intercepting defender and third-tall option for Payne and Harris Andrews, much like Himmelberg has been alongside Sam Taylor and Jack Buckley this season.

The Lions could now place further attention on free agent Tom Doedee, who is yet to come to a decision on his future as he works through his rehabilitation for a season-ending knee injury.

MELBOURNE, VICTORIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Tom Barrass of the Eagles celebrates with the Premiership Cup after the 2018 AFL Grand Final match between the Collingwood Magpies and the West Coast Eagles at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 29, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Much like Tom De Koning's re-signing at Princes Park, Himmelberg's crucial contract call has shifted the player market. Add in the already in-demand defenders of Esava Ratugolea and Ben McKay for these clubs to make a late run for.

With Richmond's plans to reunite Himmelberg with Taranto and Hopper falling short, the Punt Road club will be needing to weigh up their spine for 2024, with any major list move unlikely to be decided until a new senior coach is appointed.

The void in the Tigers' plans sits within their attacking third, likely needing to find the standout tall forward to partner Tom Lynch next season. Veteran Jack Riewoldt has led Richmond's goalkicking as their focal point inside 50, but the champion Tiger will be mulling whether to move into his post-career as a promising media figure.

With the fallen Himmelberg bid, do the Tigers look toward their triple premiership spearhead to go around for an 18th year? Or will they throw more support behind a work-in-progress project like a Ben Miller, Jacob Bauer or Kaelan Bradtke? The latter two have less than a quarter of senior football between them.

With money reserved in their plans to lure another Giant to Tigerland, Richmond could have the wiggle room to remain in the market for a supporting forward. The names currently unsigned for next season include Hayden McLean, Mitch Georgiades and Jake Riccardi - who looms as the next man in GWS' retention pecking order.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 04: Jack Riewoldt of the Tigers and Tigers interim head coach Andrew McQualter sing the team song as they celebrate victory during the round 12 AFL match between Greater Western Sydney Giants and Richmond Tigers at GIANTS Stadium, on June 04, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The fourth club said to be keen on Himmelberg's services was Collingwood, who were among the busiest off-season players last year as Craig McRae looked to build on his premiership chase.

Much like the Tigers, would the Magpies have the needed money set aside to chase another big fish? Or would they be better off shuffling their stocks to prepare for 2024 when forwards by the name of Ben King, Todd Marshall and Aaron Naughton come off-contract?

Often the main attraction for rivals to salivate over, given their riches of young talent squeezed into a single list, the Giants have seemingly managed to do their business during the season and not after it. Their influence on the off-season's shape remains the same, but this time, their work is forcing other clubs to fend for themselves.