Thrilling matches, tense finals, huge marks and a series of unforgettable storylines made the 2019 AFL season one to remember.
The evenness of the AFL’s top bracket of sides was shown by the fact just one win separated Geelong, who finished first, and the fifth-placed West Coast, while Greater Western Sydney went from sixth to reach the grand final after a stunning September run.
It was Richmond who would ultimately win the premiership, their second in three years, Damien Hardwick’s side finishing the season full of momentum.
A new campaign brings fresh hope for all 18 clubs, though, and our 2019 season reviews take a look at what went right, what went wrong, each side’s best players and how every club can improve.
The next team in the spotlight is Greater Western Sydney.
- Ladder position: Sixth
- Eventual finish: Grand finalists
- Home and away win-loss ratio: 13-9
- Home and away percentage: 115.4
Greater Western Sydney Giants AFL 2019 Season Performance Review
Was 2019 the year the Giants came of age? Greater Western Sydney finished sixth but won three finals on the trot to reach the grand final and although that ended in an 89-point defeat to Richmond, Leon Cameron’s men won plenty of admirers for their strong finish to the season. They struggled for form from Round 13 to Round 22, winning just four matches, but the Giants made a serious impact in the finals, beating the Western Bulldogs, Brisbane Lions and Collingwood to reach the grand final for the first time in their short history. The wins over the Lions and Magpies were by three and four points respectively.
Wins don’t come much better than a thrilling preliminary final triumph on the road and the Giants silenced the bulk of a 77,828-strong crowd with a four-point win over Collingwood in September. Undermanned, the Giants started brightly in wet conditions and led by as much as 33 points in the final quarter before the Magpies found another wind. Collingwood got within one goal and with the MCG roaring, it would have been very easy for the Giants to wilt. But they held firm, repelling attack after attack to seal a famous victory. In a game that saw only 15 goals kicked, Jeremy Cameron (three goals) and Jeremy Finlayson (two goals) played important roles, while Nick Haynes and Josh Kelly found plenty of the football.
Impossible not to fill this section with the grand final thrashing, given the margin. GWS kicked just three goals for the match and had no answers for the Tigers in what was a disappointing capitulation on the biggest day of the calendar. With the likes of Stephen Coniglio and Callan Ward missing due to injury and others playing under duress, the Giants were never in the contest. The last four seasons have been full of finals woe for Greater Western Sydney, with preliminary final losses in 2016 and 2017 followed by a semi-final exit in 2018. In the home and away season, the Giants were thrashed at home by both Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs.
The best and fairest
Young midfielder Tim Taranto edged a close Kevin Sheedy Medal count, finishing just two votes ahead of star forward Cameron. Taranto – the No.2 pick at the 2016 AFL draft – averaged 27.7 disposals per game in 2019, enjoying more midfield responsibility due to the club’s well-documented injury problems. Jacob Hopper was also in the mix, finishing four votes adrift of Taranto. Nick Haynes and Zac Williams rounded out the top five.
Despite making the grand final, just one GWS player finished in the top 20 at the Brownlow Medal. Coniglio won 17 votes to finish equal 13th, but the club’s spread of star men was shown by the fact Cameron, Lachie Whitfield, Kelly and Taranto all polled between nine and 13 votes. Coniglio played just 15 matches in 2019 and if he can get his body right, he should be in the running to win the prestigious award in 2020.
Cameron was the only Giant to make the final 22, holding down the centre-half-forward post after another strong season in front of goal. There was room for just two Greater Western Sydney players in the 40-man squad, too, with Haynes included in the provisional group. A full season for Coniglio would surely have seen him in the All-Australian side.
The goal kickers
Cameron not only topped the Giants goal kicking – he won the Coleman Medal for the first time. In 24 games in 2019, Cameron booted 76.50 – a tremendous return that was 12 goals more than his nearest challenger. At the end of the home and away season, Cameron had 67 goals, three more than North Melbourne’s Ben Brown. Cameron has kicked more than 45 goals in six of the last seven seasons and at 26, he still has plenty of good football left in him. Finlayson also enjoyed a strong season, adding 44.25, while Harry Himmelberg kicked 38.12, the pair combining well in a dangerous forward line set-up.
The reason to be hopeful
If the Giants can somehow keep a healthy list for much of 2020, they are sure to be in contention again. The majority of the club’s players are continuing to improve and clever work from management has ensured that none of the club’s stars are likely to leave anytime soon. A dangerous forward line and a midfield bursting at the seams with top-end talent will ensure GWS win more than enough games to make the eight and that extra finals experience gained in 2019 might just be enough to make a difference next year.