Pre-Season Prediction: 12th
Current Position: 4th
Top 4 Odds: $1.90 (via TopSport)
2015 could have been completely different for GWS had they not been decimated by injuries. This year though, it’s been the opposite. They’ve been able to keep their best players on the park and now find themselves definitely playing finals and with a chance of sneaking into a competitive top four.
The Giants set their season up from round four onwards, starting with a 86-point thumping of Port Adelaide. The proceeding months saw GWS claim wins against St Kilda, Hawthorn, Fremantle, Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs. The end of round nine saw the Giants inside the top four ahead of a massive clash with Adelaide which they ended up losing gallantly by 22 points.
Since then they’re form has been up and down. Three wins in a row against Sydney, Essendon and Carlton was followed up by a disappointing loss to Collingwood two weeks ago. Other than that game and the one against Melbourne back in round one, the Giants have taken care of the teams they should be beating and have either claimed a win or gone close against those above and around them in top eight.
What’s Gone Right?
The Giants are doing well in pretty much every statistic so it’s difficult to isolate them, but I’ve chosen Inside 50s and Clearances. GWS are the number one Inside 50 team in the league, having totalled 925 up until round 18 with a current average of 57.8 a game. When it’s in their forward line their effective as well, punishing most teams on the scoreboard from forward 50 entries. Just like Adelaide, GWS has a very potent forward line, with Jeremy Cameron, Geelong recruit Steve Johnson, Toby Greene and Rory Lobb all having kicked over 20 goals each. All four of them including Jonathan Patton are all thriving on the constant quality service from midfield.
Having an elite midfield helps, and the Giants certainly have that in abundance. As well as being the number one Inside 50 team in the competition, GWS are also the best ranked clearance side with 40.7 a game. Adelaide are second in this category and third in Inside 50s and both sides play very similar in terms of going forward. Callan Ward is inside the top ten players in the league for clearances with 5.9 a game. He’s then followed by Dylan Shiel and Stephen Conigilo who both average over five a game as well. Add Shame Mumford and Ryan Griffen to that mix and you have a midfield that is as good as any in the game.
GWS also have incredible depth on their playing list at the moment, with many first-round draft picks stuck in the NEAFL and their form in 2016 is just the beginning of what could be a dynasty.
What’s Gone Wrong?
At times the Giants can be susceptible to pressure and with a young list it’s totally understandable. However, they’re ranked 8th in the competition for disposal efficiency going at a rate of 73 per cent. Although it’s not all doom and gloom as there are only three top eight teams that are better off than the Giants in this stat, the Cats, Dogs and Hawks. With average disposal efficiency inevitably comes turnovers and the Giants are ranked ninth in the league in this area with 66.9 a game, again it’s not the worst in the top eight and both these stats are not of huge importance to GWS but fixing them up could produce even better performances. Like I said above, there isn’t much they’re doing wrong and it’s worth mentioning that talking about these statistics could be seen as tedious.
Away from the numbers, reliance on Shane Mumford could be seen as a weakness. So far the Giants haven’t shown the ability to win without the big ruckman. Mumford missed the round 12 clash with the Bombers and despite winning the game by 27 points, the Giants didn’t have their usual dominance at the clearances. Lobb has shown plenty in the forward line, but probably doesn’t have the body size just yet to carry ruck load.
Midfielder Dylan Shiel is having quite the year producing his best form yet with the Western Sydney club. Shiel is averaging 28 disposals a game, 10 of them contested, a whopping seven score involvements a game, three tackles and four inside 50s. He’s also upped his running power, gaining 486 metres a game compared to 370 in 2015.
He would have to be a good chance for All-Australian along with a host of other GWS players including Mumford, Scully, Shaw, Ward, Johnson, Davis, Williams and Greene.
What a pickup has been Steve Johnson been for the young Giants, to a point where Geelong are actually worst off without him. The 32-year old has kicked 30 goals and is averaging 19 disposals in 15 games so far this season. After being discarded by the Cats, Johnson’s move to GWS has rejuvenated his career and his influence on the group is vitally important.
The Run Home
The last six games are relatively easy games for GWS, but we also thought Collingwood would be a definite win and looked what happened. The Giants could be prone to dropping a few more games as nerves kick in towards the end of the season.
Port Adelaide away this week is followed by Richmond and Gold Coast before a big game against the Eagles – a game I think they may drop. I’m going to give them three more wins which should see them finish fifth with a home final.