Greater Western Sydney finds itself just two wins away from an historic maiden Premiership, and it could be the first of many.
Whilst six teams remain in the hunt for the title, the Giants have an armchair ride to the big dance in October with a home preliminary final and a squad bursting with young talent.
The AFL have chosen to hand GWS a home final at Spotless Stadium, giving Leon Cameron’s team a far greater advantage over the remainder of the competition. The other current preliminary finalist, Geelong, will play a home state grand final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the location of their hard fought win over Hawthorn.
With Kardinia Park still under construction and deals in place to play Victorian finals at the premium venue of the MCG, the only Victorian preliminary final was always going to be played at the home of footy, but allowing the Giants to play at their boutique venue only strengthens the case of favouritism for the AFL’s golden child.
Teams don’t make finals through handouts and sheer luck but the majority of the footy community should feel hard done by with concessions received by the expansion clubs. The clubs voted for the very generous conditions for the entry of Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney through the blindness of the shiny television dollars on offer.
Whilst we have watched the Suns self-combust season after season, GWS has been simmering away and putting fear into the remainder of the competition. The Giants, through some great player management and very high draft picks over the recent seasons, have built a squad who not only wants to play exhilarating footy, but want to build a dynasty. And the AFL can’t help but rub their hands together in reaction to the team’s success in building the game in the heartland of a competing code of football. A-League club Western Sydney Wanderers has already climbed the summit of Asian club football and the AFL are prepared to throw whatever they can to compete for the Western Sydney battleground.
Great footy and Premierships can go a long way towards establishing a healthy fan base but the AFL cannot take their eye off their heartland area of Victoria. Over the next month, and most likely over the next decade, the Giants will find themselves at the pointy end of the table unless something goes dramatically wrong. Western Bulldogs have experienced a sixty-two (and counting) year premiership drought. Melbourne have waited fifty-two years, and St Kilda fifty years, yet the AFL gleefully encourages this team from a non footy area to build in to a superpower with the ability to dominate footy in a way Hawthorn and Geelong have in recent years.
No matter what happens over the next month, GWS have five picks in the top forty in this year’s draft and their talents stocks will only continue to rise. Whilst we all love to see the type of footy GWS are playing, fans would also like to see AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and his team throw up their hands and admit that they’ve given the Giants far too many concessions.
The probability of that happening is highly unlikely and we will most likely see the Giants win multiple premierships before Gil even entertains this thought. Finals footy are about taking your chances and this young group of footballers are primed to make history and write the first intimidating chapters about the land of the Giants.