AFL-created 'monster' gobbling up its rivals
DON'T you love it when a plan comes together.
Five a half years ago, AFL clubs were worried their preparation for the 2011 season would be compromised by having to play a fledgling GWS Giants outfit in practice games.
With a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds, the side was certainly a "bit light on” in those early days.
A year out from their official AFL debut, they had met Sydney in their first NAB Cup (as it was then) match, and were held goalless.
The Giants' situation hadn't changed much in its first two seasons in the AFL competition.
Kevin Sheedy, brought back from the footy wilderness to coach, had been at the helm of just four 100-point beltings in his 27 years at Essendon.
Between 2012 and 2013 at GWS, there would be 10 - five in each year - while the side would win just three games in 44 outings.
Whether he truly believed it or not, Sheeds had outwardly stood firm though in his belief that the Giants could win a first premiership in its first five years.
"We wanted the opportunity to bring a group of players through for five years and end up with a group of 20 to 25-year-olds who will be peaking together,” Sheedy said.
"Every game is going to be a great experience for our boys - some will be tough, most likely they all will be tough.
"But we want the players in their losses to understand the experience they're getting to become a great team and great players.”
Fast forward to 2016, GWS has blossomed into a great team with great players, many of which have been groomed by the club themselves, with some mature-age ring-ins as the icing on the cake.
The Giants are suddenly $3.25 second favourite for the flag behind Geelong ($3) after winning their first ever final - a qualifying final against minor premier Sydney, no less - that has set them up for a home preliminary final against the Bulldogs or Hawthorn.
They have comfortably beaten both teams this year, particularly the Hawks, who they annihilated in round six.
The Giants were actually more experienced than the Swans on Saturday by an average three games - 109.7 to 106.5.
The line-up was built on 13 players with between 50-100 games.
They had two with less than 50 compared to Sydney with eight.
And, for the record, these Giants were bigger too than their "older brothers”, 188.2cm and 87.5kg to 186.9cm and 86.7kg.
They were far from being overawed by the big occasion too, despite having only played in front of a crowd of more than 40,000 people three times in 110 previous games.
There was 60,000 to watch them at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
The Giants will have their detractors - as a monster the AFL has created to gobble up the rest of the competition.
But, boy, their journey has been a fascinating one, and their matches so enjoyable to watch with the way their fleet-footed players attack relentlessly.
And whether Sheedy's early prediction does become reality this season, they have already been installed as $4.25 outright favourite for the flag in their sixth season.