The GWS Giants enter 2017 with the best team on paper in the entire competition.
It’s basically impossible to find any gaps in this squad. The midfield is devastating, forward line electric and backline solid, as Leon Cameron has an embarrassment of riches to play with.
Most of the concerns surrounding the Giants in 2016, such as the lack of finals experience, are now redundant. Yes, most of their core players have only played two games in September, but the intensity of the epic Preliminary Final against Western Bulldogs was unlike no other. Playing in that contest, despite the loss, will do GWS’ youngsters a world of good in the future.
What’s scary is, the team that came a kick short of making the Grand Final, is now considerably better. The Brett Deledio addition cannot be talked about enough. The former Tiger adds another dimension to the Giants’ forward line, and with Deledio’s responsibility far lighter here than at Richmond, it should add to his effectiveness.
Deledio joining forces with Steve Johnson in the same forward line is a defenders nightmare, as nobody can match their collective smarts around goal. Furthermore, the three-headed monster of Jeremy Cameron, Jon Patton and Rory Lobb gives GWS more scoring avenues, while Toby Greene and Devon Smith will have their improvement fast tracked under the tutelage of Deledio and Johnson.
In the middle, well, the Giants have an absurd line-up. Trying to choose a number one midfielder amongst this bunch is a tough ask, but Stephen Coniglio gets the mantle. A ball magnet in the middle, Coniglio blends all the elements you could ask for in an on-baller into one. The former number two pick can win the footy at the coalface, explode out of packs, set up teammates going forward and run with opposition midfielders, giving the Giants the ultimate utility knife.
After Coniglio, Callan Ward represents the heart and soul of this GWS squad. The co-captain is the spiritual leader and is a brut around the football. The likes of Tom Scully, Ryan Griffen, Josh Kelly and Dylan Shiel are terrific, while GWS has first-year jets Tim Taranto, Will Setterfield and Harry Perryman to blood in the middle.
No team has a better set of runners down back, as Zac Williams, Heath Shaw, Nick Haynes and Nathan Wilson are all capable of starting GWS’ impressive link-up play. Adam Tomlinson did a good job of patrolling the halfback line in the second half of 2016, while Phil Davis is one of the best shutdown defenders in the competition.
GWS also added more veterans to the list, with dejected Dockers duo Tendai Mzungu and Matt de Boer providing some depth.
A storyline to follow this season will be how Lachie Whitfield responds to his six-month suspension. The 22-year-old won’t be able to return until round nine against Richmond. Whitfield is good enough to walk into the best 22, but with GWS overflowing with talent, don’t be surprised if someone steals his spot.
Cameron has a coaches dream team in 2017. Now, it’s about ensuring they live up to the hype.
The Giants’ Best 22:
B: Nick Haynes, Phil Davis, Nathan Wilson
HB: Zac Williams, Adam Tomlinson, Heath Shaw
C: Tom Scully, Stephen Coniglio, Dylan Shiel
HF: Toby Greene, Jeremy Cameron, Brett Deledio
F: Steve Johnson, Jon Patton, Rory Lobb
Foll: Shane Mumford, Callan Ward, Ryan Griffen
INT: Josh Kelly, Devon Smith, Jacob Hopper, Lachie Whitfield