Story of 2015

The Giants started 2015 with a bang, sitting 7-3 after 10 rounds and seemingly on track for a maiden finals berth. However, they would win only four more games for the season, with injuries striking key players at the wrong times.

The constant media speculation surrounding gun midfielder Adam Treloar’s contract negotiations proved a distraction during the season. The young Victorian was courted by many clubs, most noticeably Richmond, North Melbourne and Collingwood, and by year’s end he left the Giants to join the Magpies. The unresolved contract situation with forward Cam McCarthy, who has returned to Perth indefinitely as he deals with homesickness, was also one of the stories of the year for the Giants.

However, despite these adversities, the Giants showed that they were capable of playing some exceptional football. Their run-and-gun style has been tempered with a more solid defensive mindset, allowing them to play with added consistency.

Heath Shaw was exceptional in defence for the Giants, earning All-Australian selection in arguably his best season yet. His rebound and experience in the back line was responsible for launching many GWS forays to goal, evidenced by the fact he registered career-high rebound-50s and disposals, and was also among the most prolific in the competition in these categories.

Co-captain Callan Ward also had a super season, imposing himself in the Giants’ midfield. Tom Scully also cemented his spot in the side and became a more consistent player, while Nick Haynes enjoyed a solid season in defence.

What went wrong

Injuries. The Giants finished 11th on the ladder but started the year well – sitting in fifth spot after round 10. The Giants looked on track for a finals berth until the injury curse struck mid-season – Shane Mumford, Joel Patfull, Stephen Coniglio and Phil Davis all suffered injuries in round 11, and were rarely sighted for the rest of the season. Spearhead Jon Patton and key midfielders Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel and Rhys Palmer also suffered injuries that required extensive layoffs. The Giants battled admirably for the rest of the season, but were able to win only four more games for the year.

The team was also poor in contested possessions and clearances, ranking 17th and 14th in the competition respectively. The Giants have prided themselves on their ability to bring a tough edge to their games, so these would have been disappointing statistics. The injuries to Shiel, Treloar and Coniglio obviously had a big role to play in this, but the rest of the team weren’t able to pick up the slack.

Another factor is the constant ‘go-home’ factor that the club is experiencing. The loss of Treloar could have a bigger effect on the Giants’ midfield than many expect, while McCarthy’s absence robs the team of some forward potency. The Giants also gave up in essence four players to Carlton – Lachie Plowman, Jed Lamb, Liam Sumner and Andrew Phillips – for a high draft pick. In a team that lacks small forwards and ruckmen, this was a surprising decision.

What went right

Cam McCarthy and Jeremy Cameron formed a formidable duo in the forward line. Both competed well and proved a headache for defenders, combining for a 98-goal return for the year, making them the fourth best forward combination in the competition.

The Giants also played with much more consistency – they now have a core group of players with at least 50 games under their belt, which means they are starting to implement their game plan much more effectively.This was clear in their win over Hawthorn early in the season – in previous years, the young Giants would have crumbled when the Hawks rose to the challenge, but in 2015 they held their nerve through defensive steel, a fact which would have pleased coach Leon Cameron no end.

The Giants also got more games into their young players, with James Stewart, Jack Steele, Caleb Marchbank and Zac Williams showing excellent progress.

2016 preview

If their start to 2015 is anything to go by, the Giants should challenge for a maiden finals berth this season. They acquired some more quality talent in the off-season, with sharpshooter Steve Johnson crossing from the Cats, and highly talented midfield duo Jacob Hopper and Matthew Kennedy acquired in the draft. This should go some way to offsetting the loss of Treloar, particularly in the contested ball and clearance areas.

If Patton and Cameron can gel in the forward line, and the Giants can get a full season out of key defenders Davis and Patfull, they will be much more solid. Development also needs to come from the next tier of players such as Adam Tomlinson, Adam Kennedy, Nathan Wilson and Aidan Corr. The club will also hope for good output from ruckmen Dawson Simpson and Rory Lobb to assist Shane Mumford.

Fixture-wise, the Giants face a difficult start to the season, playing Geelong, Sydney, Port, Hawthorn and Fremantle in the first seven rounds. Return matches against Fremantle, Gold Coast, Port, Sydney and Geelong mean that the Giants face a tough challenge to make finals. Games against Essendon and Carlton in rounds 13 and 14 before the bye could shape their season – win those by big margins, and it could set them up nicely for a late-season assault on the finals.

Best 22

B – Nick Haynes – Joel Patfull – Adam Tomlinson
HB – Heath Shaw – Phil Davis – Tom Scully
C – Lachie Whitfield – Stephen Coniglio – Ryan Griffen
HF – Toby Greene – Jeremy Cameron – Will Hoskin-Elliott
F – Devon Smith – Jonathon Patton – Steve Johnson
R – Shane Mumford – Dylan Shiel – Callan Ward
I/C – Rhys Palmer – Zac Williams – James Stewart – Josh Kelly

Ladder prediction