It was a somewhat surprising season from GWS in 2020 as we saw them make their first ever finals appearance. If they can learn from this season's mistakes and develop a little more resilience during momentum swings, they could use this season as a springboard into a more consistent and successful run in 2021.
2019 finish: 3rd (Conference B)
2020 finish: 2nd (Conference A)
In a Nutshell
GWS was one of the most consistent teams in Conference A and Alan McConnell’s women were rewarded with their first finals appearance. That is a bigger achievement than one would imagine, given the logistical difficulties faced by GWS are perhaps steeper than that of any other side: 13 Giants are from states outside of New South Wales and another two hail from Ireland.
GWS’ defence went to new heights in 2020. Only Brisbane was able to kick more than six goals in a match against the second stingiest backline around (the Giants conceded an average of just 20 points a game). Elle Bennetts was as improved as any player this season while Tanya Hetherington and Pepa Randall (fifth and sixth for disposal efficiency respectively, league-wide) were once again week-in, week-out reliable set-pieces for McConnell. The change-up move of Jess Dal Pos and Bec Beeson to high rebound defenders proved decisive: GWS’ rebound 50s were at 85% of their Inside 50s conceded.
The pattern in GWS’ victories was their ability to choke teams into frustrated errors across four quarters of ruthlessly committed defence. Were the Giants ever a joy to watch? No. Were they efficient? Yes.
An admittedly favourable draw saw GWS play just three finalists in six matches and lose to two. Its first four matches were win-loss as victories over the Suns and Eagles were tempered by losses to North Melbourne and Brisbane. A percentage-boosting thrashing of the fast-fading Richmond and a gutsy win over Adelaide secured the Giants their place in finals. The bitterness of GWS’ semi-final defeat against Melbourne will doubtless rankle in these long off-season months: the Giants had the match played on their terms before letting slip a 14-point final quarter lead in the dying seconds.
The Giants need to find more matchwinners. Mastering a defensive play and bringing a match on its terms is GWS’ one-wood but the Round 4 loss to a freewheeling Brisbane proved that the Giants struggle to find an offensive fall-back if momentum gets away from them. Potential All-Australian midfielder Parker and captain Alicia Eva can singlehandedly drive their side onward, but they stand alone in that regard. Up forward, the twin tower set-up of Cora Staunton and second-chance hero Bec Privitelli combined for 14 goals but the former will be 39 at the start of next season. Can the likes of Aimee Schmidt and Jacinda Barclay step up to become goal-kicking forwards?