Even when the Giants were getting belted in the club’s early seasons, footy sages warned us about how good this team could be. Rather remarkably, it’s happening almost right on schedule.
When GWS coach Leon Cameron spoke with Inside Sport before the finals series, he was at pains to emphasise how the AFL’s youngest club needed to take every step in a long-term process. “The ultimate aim is to become regular finals performers,” he said. “There’s no chance of premierships if you’re not frequent finals performers.”
The logic is sound, but Cameron’s team might soon contradict him. After their qualifying final thumping of the Sydney Swans, the possibility of a GWS premiership became utterly realistic. In only five seasons, the start-up operation out at Homebush is a legitimate contender for the flag.
It looks odd, to place the Giants in an elite circle with September mainstays such as Geelong, Hawthorn and the Swans. But this is what many learned AFL observers had been saying since the early days of GWS – with this assemblage of young talent, it was only a matter of time. As Dermott Brereton sounded the alarm back in 2014: “In three years’ time you’ll all be saying, ‘Why did we let them have so much?’”
People within the club sensed the potential too. The mantra of those first few seasons, as the losses piled up, was if they could get their group of draftees to the 80-to-100-game mark, then the results would begin to turn. Break down the 22 that GWS ran out for its first finals match: Jeremy Cameron and Devon Smith, both 92 games, Toby Greene 97, Dylan Shiel 86, Stephen Coniglio, 84.
There’s a prevailing logic within the AFL that this is how it works – build list, wait enough, wins follow. Richmond seems to be living by the notion. But even as the Giants validate this logic, it’s notable that it’s not just the kids who got them this far: from Callan Ward to Shane Mumford to Ryan Griffen to Steve Johnson, they’ve brought in significant veteran presence.
There’s a sense that this is a team playing with house money. Even if they were to be eliminated from their home preliminary final, it’s a step in the process, and they can bring it all back in 2017 with confidence. But even for a club built for future success, there’s no such thing as a right time to win a premiership – whenever you win it is just right.