History against GWS in race for first flag

GWS Giants must break a number of ducks to beat Collingwood in their preliminary AFL final.
GWS Giants must break a number of ducks to beat Collingwood in their preliminary AFL final.

GWS have racked up some pretty impressive club firsts this season, but will need to add to that list against Collingwood this weekend to keep alive their hopes of a maiden AFL flag.

In Brisbane last week, the Giants won a first finals match interstate at their fourth attempt.

Earlier in the season they finally broke their duck at Geelong, after four previous losses.

The league's youngest club also broke through for their first major individual honour, with key forward Jeremy Cameron winning the Coleman Medal, for the competition's leading goalkicker (67 goals).

But to advance to a first grand final in their eighth season, GWS will have to tick some more boxes.

They have lost both their previous preliminary finals and have never won more than one game in a season at the MCG, where this year they have a 1-2 record.

The Giants are 0-6 when they've played without both Lachie Whitfield and Toby Greene, each off whom will miss Saturday's match.

GWS have also come up short in their two previous MCG finals in the last two seasons.

The first one was the memorable 2017 preliminary final against Richmond, which featured one of the most one-sided crowds in AFL history.

The vast majority of the 94,258 crowd - the largest to watch a Giants game - cheered on the Tigers.

It was a similar story in 2018 against Collingwood, who ended the Giants' season at the MCG at the semi-final stage in front of an MCG crowd of 72,504, the second biggest attendance at a GWS fixture.

"It's us against them at times isn't it," Giants star Lachie Whitfield said earlier this week before being ruled out of Saturday's game.

"When you've got great tight bunch of people and have really good culture and friendship like we do, it's almost like going to the fight in the schoolyard."

What the Giants lack in numbers in terms of travelling support they try to make up for in noise volume.

"We love our fans and they're very vocal," Whitfield said.

"From what I've heard there's been a few biffs in the crowd with the Giants fans sticking up for us."

While GWS have a poor overall MCG record of 3-15, 11 of those losses were in their first 12 games there.

"I know people are going to look at the MCG record, but it's probably a lot of that first three or four years when we weren't good enough to compete at the MCG as a young club," Giants coach Leon Cameron said.

Whatever the outcome of Saturday's game, GWS can take some pride and satisfaction out of a season in which they've shown immense resilience.

Even before the season started some naysayers opined their premiership window may have closed after Dylan Shiel, Tom Scully, Rory Lobb and Will Setterfield were traded.

Their midfield was further denuded with the loss for virtually the entire campaign of co-captain Callan Ward, who had missed just a handful of games through the Giants' first seven seasons.

Other senior midfielders Stephen Coniglio, Matt de Boer and Josh Kelly all missed significant chunks of the second half of the season.

They kicked a club record low 4.5 in round 21 and the week after were again held goalless in the second half.

Since that nadir they have won three straight, something they have done three times this season, but have yet to get four.

Australian Associated Press