The only way is up for the GWS Giants’ AFLW side, after a disappointing season in the competition’s first year. An impressive preseason performance against 2017 minor premiers Brisbane should give fans hope of a much-improved outing in the club’s second campaign.
The Coach: Alan McConnell
The Captain: Amanda Farrugia
The Giants will hope their midfield group can help improve the team’s scoreboard impact. Jess Dal Pos was the team’s best player last season, averaging 14 disposals, seven tackles and 146 ranking points per game and at just 24 years of age, she’ll look to cement her spot as one of the better midfielders in the competition. Joining her in the centre once again will be marquee player Emma Swanson and Britt Tully, but it’s former Magpie Alicia Eva and Renee Forth, who missed the entire first season due to an ACL injury, that provide the most excitement. Forth was GWS’ other marquee player and provides something different to the other midfielders, with her ability to move well around the ground. The league’s youngest player of last season, Erin McKinnon, will look to develop further as the main ruck and she has a brilliant midfield at her feet.
Looking at the preseason performance against Brisbane, the Giants were brilliant at both ends of the ground, despite ranking last in average points last year, and first in points conceded. They kicked 12 goals and conceded just four, although it ended up being a five-quarter match. It’ll be a big season for Phoebe McWilliams, who performed well given the circumstances in attack last year. The 32-year-old will need help from Jacinda Barclay, Louise Stephenson and 2018 first-round pick Jodie Hicks in order to break out this season. However, with the improved ball coming into the forward line, there’s every chance these players perform well.
Despite being the worst defensive outfit in the competition, Renee Tomkins established herself as one of the premier key defenders, winning 40% of defensive one-on-ones according to Champion Data. She clearly needed help, which saw the Giants recruit Rebecca Privitelli as a free agent after playing five games for Carlton last season, and Tanya Hetherington with their second pick of last year’s draft. Add in the captain Amanda Farrugia and new recruit Pepa Randall who will do good jobs on smaller forwards, and it’s a tighter defence. Former number one pick Nicola Barr will likely receive more midfield time and run off half-back.
Where they sat in 2017:
In 2017, the club’s only win came in a huge upset over the Demons, where they were dominated for most of the match. Champion Data highlighted that the Giants were ranked last in contested possessions, inside 50s, scores per inside 50 generated and scores conceded per opposition inside 50, making it ugly reading overall for the club. In fact, the Giants kicked just 23 goals for the entire season, which wasn’t anywhere near enough, and certainly not with scores bound to be higher across the competition.
The wooden spoon forced a change in coaching at the club and it’ll drive the players to be far more competitive in 2018. If GWS can take something away from last season, it’s the importance of good depth. It’s an area that is much-improved this season, although it could still use some work.
Forget what you knew about the 2017 AFLW Giants. This is a brand new side.
50-point winners over the Brisbane Lions in a five-quarter (fifths?) practice match.
— Sarah Black (@_sjblack) January 20, 2018
IN: Jodie Hicks (pick 5), Tanya Hetherington (pick 17), Courtney Gum (pick 25), Phoebe Monahan (pick 39), Philippa Smyth (pick 43), Cora Staunton (pick 47), Haneen Zreika (Rookie Draft – pick 1), Tait Mackrill (Rookie Draft – pick 9), Elle Bennetts (rookie selection), Melissa Freckleton (free agent), Rebecca Privitelli (free agent), Pepa Randall (Melbourne), Alicia Eva (Collingwood), Madeleine Boyd (Melbourne)
OUT: Ash Guest (Melbourne), Jess Bibby (retired), Mai Nguyen, Kristy De Pellegrini, Hannah Wallett, Ella Ross, Isabella Rudolph, Codie Briggs, Kate Stanton, Clare Lawton (delisted)
The preseason so far:
As mentioned, the Giants were enormously impressive against the reigning minor premiers in their preseason match. In a five-quarter match, agreed upon for fitness purposes, the Giants were dominant in all areas. The defence was looking good, they had three multiple goalkickers and most impressively, the fitness was already there.
GWS will be relatively confident with what they can produce this season, although any spot above last will be an improvement.
— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) December 11, 2017
Players to watch:
It will be exciting to see Renee Forth play some footy this season, after missing last year through injury. As one of the marquee players, there’ll be some expectation on her to have a tangible effect immediately and many will back her to deliver. The continued development of Erin McKinnon will also be good to watch, as she can be one of the league’s best tall players.
In terms of new draftees, watch for Cora Staunton. She kicked two goals in the preseason match against the Lions and is one of the all-time greats in Gaelic football. Staunton could be a key player in attack this season for the Giants.
— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) January 21, 2018
Home ground advantage is key in AFLW, given teams only play each other once. The Giants have only three away games this season, two of which are in Victoria against the Demons and Collingwood. That makes it relatively friendly, especially due to the fact they get to host the two Grand Finalists of last season. It’s now up to the Giants to make the most of it.
Author’s prediction: 4th
There’s some excitement around the Giants. They have every chance of jumping up multiple spots on the ladder, although pushing for a Grand Final appearance will be a bridge too far.
Say hello to #18 AMANDA FARRUGIA ✨ Captain of the GIANTS 😀 Position: Defender 💪 Amanda led the inaugural side in the 2017 NAB AFL Women's Competition and was reappointed for 2018! ☝️ FUN FACT: Amanda only took up footy in recent years when she was looking for a new sport to keep her active 🙌 #NeverSurrender #AFLW
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