This AFL season has been crying out for a side to put their hand up and claim favouritism for the premiership, but until last round every potential favourite had stumbled and failed to leave their stamp on the premiership race.
The Greater Western Sydney Giants were the pick for most people to take out this year’s flag, but after being hammered by Adelaide in their season opener and following that up with a series of unconvincing last gasp wins and a shock loss to St Kilda many began to doubt the talented Giants. Some perceived the young group to be getting ahead of themselves and playing champagne football.
After dismantling the Giants, and going unbeaten for the first six rounds the Crows became the flag fancies, but they too succumbed to the title of favourites and lost two games in a row before recovering to win their last two.
Richmond and Geelong both started their seasons off with a bang before stumbling as well, as has been the story for so many sides who have threatened to step into the shoes of flag favouritism. Richmond now appears to be fighting hard for a spot in the eight, and while Geelong have turned their form around recently they still seem heavily reliant on Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood.
Reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs have been another slow starter, while their vanquished opponents from the 2015 decided Sydney have shocked everyone and fallen dramatically. The Swans now need everything to go their way just to qualify for September action.
Season 2017 has been like no other, and the even nature of the competition has been exciting and made for great viewing every weekend. It’s almost halfway through the home and away season and still fans wait for a real contender to stake their claim for the favourites tag.
It appears last weekend the Giants finally did just that. Heading to Perth to take on a wounded West Coast Eagles outfit keen for redemption, an Eagles side that was undefeated at their Domain Stadium fortress, the young Giants overcame great adversity to show they are more than just a bunch of supremely talented youngsters who play dazzling football.
GWS had just 26 fit players to pick from for their journey across the Nullarbor, and while many will argue the concessions granted to the league’s newest club by the AFL means their depth far exceeds that of any other club, it was still a remarkable achievement to go over to the west and win with so few players to choose from.
Not only was it an impressive feat from the Giants, but the nature of their victory showed they are more than just a team of stars, but a genuine star team, a young and talented side yes, but also one that is full of grit and courage and is capable of grafting out a win in tough circumstances. The Giants showed they have the ability to win ugly, as they have had to do a few times already this season, and that is a key trait of a premiership contender.
In ten games this season the well-oiled GWS machine hasn’t got itself in to top gear just yet, but they are showing their ability to win games without playing their best football and without key players. To take an undermanned side over to Perth and beat the Eagles on their home deck could just be the catalyst for the Giants to go all the way in season 2017.
Against the Eagles they trailed at the first two changes, and led by just three points heading into the final term and then had to endure several lead changes in a see-sawing final stanza. Every time the Eagles got in front the Giants responded when they would have been forgiven for allowing the home side to run away with the match. But these Giants showed they aren’t a side that is going to lie down, they aren’t a side that are going to make excuses. When the going got tough it was star on-ballers Josh Kelly and Dylan Shiel along with gun small forward Toby Greene who led the Giants back into the game and to an eventual eight point victory that could define their season.
Many believe this GWS side is destined for glory, but were critical of their start to this season. It seems the penny has dropped for the Giants’ stars and they now realise what they are capable of achieving. Now that the realisation has sunk in, it seems GWS have stepped up into premiership favouritism. It suits them.