Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page: I love the Giants. I always have. Yes, my adoration (and slight crush) on Jeremy Cameron may have been the primary cause for this but I really do love the club. So much so that I’d probably consider them my team more than the Swans, now (the Swans ruined our relationship when they got Buddy, but that’s another story).
For the past few years, I heard one comparison over and over about why Gold Coast was better: they had Gary Ablett. Yes, the man is miraculous and I do not have a bad word to say about him (although it does suck that the poor thing is constantly injured). The argument was that Gold Coast do better because they had a mentor in Ablett. Ablett is an experienced player who could “coach” younger players into what it would be like on the field, how to work together, how to behave off the field (although I think the massive drug use going on that club shows that maybe he wasn’t exactly dominating that that aspect of mentoring), and so on. Most people seemed to think that GWS should have spent some dolla dolla bills and gotten themselves an Ablett and that by getting Izzy instead, they failed their players.
That was the argument: having an experienced player taught the Gold Coast kiddies things that GWS couldn’t learn.
At first I thought, “Well, wait. They’ve got Sheedz!” (And we all know how much I respect that man). “After 1,000 games playing and coaching… surely he can teach them some stuff.” And he did… but the man spent more time pulling marketing stunts than he did with the club (or at least it appeared that way to me) and the club overall seemed to put more emphasis on publicity (“Battle of the Bridge”, Israel Folau… all that nonsense) than developing the players.
But this year, the script has been flipped. All of a sudden GWS is doing well and Gold Coast is… not doing that well. And I think I know why.
Yes, Ablett is a tremendous asset. But they relied on him WAY too much.Two years ago, talking about Gold Coast with some people, someone joked that the entire Gold Coast game plan consisted of a single, simple phrase: “Pass to Gary.” Sure, it was funny. But it was also too true. Which is why after Gary got injured, Gold Coast just floundered. And it just keeps getting worse. Because when someone is carrying your team, why would anyone bother getting any better? Outside of Ablett, Jaeger O’Meara was probably their best player and he ruptured his patella. They’ve also got Nick Malceski, but you can’t build a team on Malceski. So they’ve just gotten worse and worse. Their greatest asset has now become their greatest weakness.
The Giants on the other hand…
While the Giants lost (and lost… and lost some more) since their beginning, I always had faith for one simple reason: young guns have to grow up. It wasn’t even that they were a bad club – they were just an inexperienced club. They had very little stamina and just seemed a little lost with each other – a skill that can only really be improved by spending a lot of time playing together, which they hadn’t. Yet.
Then, in the past two years, a couple big things have happened. They got rid of Folau and Sheedy. And they got themselves a few experienced players (Shane Mumford, most notably). The Giants have also had several years playing with each other and know each other better. And it’s showing. They were part of the top eight for the first few rounds (sure, they had a pretty easy first few games, but give credit where credit is due) and they beat Hawthorn this year. Gold Coast’s biggest accomplishment this year? Drawing with the Eagles. Yea… I think we know who is performing better.
Yes, once Mumford got injured the Giants had some difficulty. But not as much as was expected. In the absence of a crutch (which Gold Coast had in Ablett), the Giants were forced to grow up and now… well, it’s just a matter of time before they’re bigger and badder than was ever expected when they first started.