The Giants Are Always Crashing In The Same Car
Right now, somewhere off Parramatta Road, the GWS Giants are in a phone booth crying their eyes out.
They’ve just crashed Dad’s bright orange Lamborghini and they don’t know where they are or how they got here.
These boys have received plenty from Mum and Dad since being implanted into the league, with salary cap relief, priority access to the country’s best 17-year old talent and a bucketload of first-round picks among many of the gifts tossed their way.
Yet, for all the concessions it could be argued they've seriously under-achieved, and are now on the brink of squandering their generous endowment.
The Giants should be applauded for carving out an identity from thin air, exchanging years of squalor to qualify for four-straight Septembers and even breaking through to a maiden Grand Final last year.
Yet on footy’s biggest stage they were humiliated to the tune of 89-points and violently reminded of how difficult it is to win a flag.
The wounds from that belting still don't appear to have healed, with the team struggling immensely in 2020, currently sitting ninth on the ladder and saddled with an unimaginative attack that’s producing the sixth least points in the competition.
What’s most concerning is that this season was set up perfectly for them. They had precious little interruption to their richly talented squad, they didn’t have to be rapidly evacuated from Victoria, while they should have been bursting at the seams to rectify last September’s shellacking.
Instead, the only familiar theme regarding the 2020 Giants is their patented ability to beat up on less fortunate clubs, while surrendering against more mature, serious outfits.
GWS are at their ground-shaking best when they face the league’s most vulnerable. Over the last six seasons they’re 42-11 against bottom-8 foes and it’s on these occasions where we bear witness to the familiar sight of the Giants gleefully rubbing their opponent’s heads after goals, playing the role of arch villain to perfection.
However their lust for life seemingly vanishes when they run into serious clubs. In the same six-year span they're just 23-28 against top-8 opponents, continually wilting under the pressure of more focused, usually better prepared teams.
While they’ve come a long way from winning just 3 of its 44 games in the AFL, the Giants are discovering that insane talent, without application, and without tactical sophistication, can only get you so far.
And it’s here where we drag the beleaguered figure of Leon Cameron before the jury.
Cameron’s coached the Giants since 2014, overseeing the club's immense gains yet appears to have reached his imaginative limit with this squad. He doesn’t have a contract beyond this year and with the likes of Blake Caracella or even Alastair Clarkson potentially in play, the club's braintrust will have some big decisions to make over the coming months.
Indeed these six next weeks shape as one of the most important junctures in the club's short history.
Their champion full-forward Jeremy Cameron is also out of contract, while his potential departure would constitute a bitter blow.
Cameron essentially represents the entirety of the Giant's forward line. He’s won their goal kicking in all eight of their campaigns and is on course to win it again this year. They’ve lost 12 of their last 15 games when he’s been limited to a goal or less in matches, with the club failing to build a threatening, diverse attack around him
Toby Greene should theoretically be the perfect decoy, however his incredible talent still comes with an asterisk. At his best he's the game's premier small forward, yet his production remains plagued by inconsistency, injury and suspension.
Speaking of ridiculously talented Giants, what kind of footballer does Lachie Whitfield want to be? There are few players in the league as precociously skilled or as elegant as the former #1 pick, yet his appetite for the contest remains suspect.
While Whitfield remains a darling of the the fantasy sports community, his standing in the real world isn't as lofty. For a player good enough to rank 9th in the league for uncontested possession, his 208th rank for contested footy is indicative of someone more comfortable roaming across half back with little accountability. He's generating clearances at a six-year low, while he's kicked just the one goal from his 11 matches this season.
And it's in evoking 'fantasy' where we drill down further to the core of the Giants and where a certain 'dis-reality' becomes even more palpable. For all their fantastic talent, and fantastic advantages, they too often crumble in the cold light of day.
They've got six massive weeks to get back into the 2020 Final's race and perhaps re-assert their premiership bonafides. Doing so might prompt yet another re-evaluation of this young club, and might even save Leon Cameron's job.
Failure however will prompt a raft of changes and constitute a spectacular missed opportunity to get their hands on a premiership- and to finally have Mum and Dad tell them how proud they are.
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