Giants' AFL flag quest more than beating Magpies

By Joanna Guelas
Updated March 3 2024 - 1:15pm, first published 1:13pm
The Giants went oh so close against Collingwood in the 2023 preliminary final. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)
The Giants went oh so close against Collingwood in the 2023 preliminary final. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Collingwood this, Magpies that - Adam Kingsley is not getting swept up in it.

The GWS coach is eyeing something bigger on the horizon, something sweeter than claiming the scalp of the reigning AFL premiers.

All the noise surrounding their opening-round date with the Magpies heralds a blockbuster - how better to treat footy fans than with a rematch between GWS and the side who knocked them out in last year's preliminary final by just one point?

The AFL expects a sell-out in Western Sydney while fans puzzle over how, or even if, the Magpies can be stopped.

The story writes itself and even Kingsley admits the appeal.

But in his eyes, it's not a rematch - it's a repeat.

And once it's over, whether they win or lose, they're onto the next opposition.

"The season's a bit longer than the Collingwood game," Kingsley told AAP.

"We don't focus on one opposition or one game.

"If you get your focus too heavily on that one game, you can perhaps not see the bigger picture well enough."

And what is the bigger picture? What could possibly be sweeter than claiming the scalp of the team that knocked you out by one point?

Claiming the flag yourself.

The time is nigh for one of the expansion teams to win a premiership and the question is: can GWS do it?

Football minds have readily written off the harbour city's forgotten sibling since their inception in 2010, perhaps even more so after their first and only grand-final appearance when GWS were demolished by a rampaging Richmond unit.

Before Kingsley came to town, the Giants had finished the 2022 season in 16th spot on the ladder with only six wins.

The 2023 campaign looked as if it wasn't going to be any different after GWS started 3-7, including a 65-point thumping from the Magpies in round nine.

But football is a funny thing.

After running rampant late in the season to reach their first preliminary final in four years and challenge Collingwood until the final siren, the Giants had convinced the footy world to heed their "orange tsunami" warning.

They boast a premiership-quality list.

Toby Greene relished the standalone captaincy last year and he went up a level, becoming arguably the AFL's most dangerous player.

He richly deserved the All-Australian captaincy.

Every part of the Giants' team is well-balanced, from Greene, Jesse Hogan and Jake Riccardi in attack, to Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio, Tom Green and Finn Callaghan through the midfield, and a defence led by Jack Buckley and Sam Taylor.

"After last year, there's more expectations around our playing list and we need to be able to manage that internally and still be able to perform at a high level," Kingsley said.

"That's certainly one thing that I've had to adjust this year based on the level of expectation being completely different than what it was."

Making it to September is the new standard but Kingsley won't let himself get too far ahead.

"It's just about doing my job as best as I possibly can," he said.

"You want to play well - there's certainly an elevated level of pressure to be able to do that and make people proud of us.

"Hopefully, we play the right way and that leads us to wins.

"If we do that consistently enough then that'll hopefully result in a flag."

Between Collingwood and cross-city rivals Sydney, there's another rivalry brewing for the Giants.

Kingsley is keeping one eye on former coaching mentor Damien Hardwick after the triple premiership tactician was lured back into coaching with a gig at fellow expansion club Gold Coast.

GWS helped secure early bragging rights for Kingsley - who coached under Hardwick at Richmond for four years - after grabbing a pre-season win over the Suns in Canberra.

Asked whether he's hoping to get the maiden expansion team flag before Hardwick does, Kingsley chuckles.

"We're really good friends but there is a rivalry. We're certainly both very competitive people," he said.

"I'm sure both coaches and clubs are hoping that it's a rivalry that sees it play out through finals and both clubs are desperate for their first flag."

Australian Associated Press