From Grand Finalists to flag favourites, and now also-rans: the sad story behind the Giant downfall

It happened to the Adelaide Crows in 2018, and now it's happened to the GWS Giants in 2020.


A season that had promised so much at the start of the year has instead ended in disappointment, with the GWS Giants failing to make the finals for the first time since 2015.


The Giants went into the year among one of the favourites for the flag after their miraculous run to the Grand Final last year, which ended in humiliation as they were put on the wrong end of a Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt masterclass from the Richmond Football Club.


The 89-point defeat, their heaviest in a finals match, led many to suggest that they would fall down the ladder this season, and that's exactly what has happened.


But it appeared at first that the Giants would buck the trend when they so impressively defeated the Geelong Cats at an empty Giants Stadium in the opening round, which doubled as Stephen Coniglio's first match as the club's newest full-time captain.


That came on the back of an impressive pre-season in which they defeated the Sydney Swans by nearly a hundred points before turning the tables on Richmond with a 14-point win in Wagga Wagga.



Then came the bombshell announcement from AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan that the season would be suspended for at least ten weeks as the coronavirus pandemic began to peak in Australia.


When the season eventually resumed, the Giants were slow to get going, suffering defeats to North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs before putting their season back into the black with victories over Collingwood and Hawthorn, both at home.


However, inconsistency proved to be their Achilles heel for the remainder of the season, failing to win more than two consecutive matches and ultimately losing five of their last seven after their round 11 bye to finish 10th on the ladder.


Again, a crippling injury toll plagued the Giants' fortunes but so too have the extraordinary circumstances that affected the season as a whole, with the club forced out of Sydney after round eight when a second wave of coronavirus cases swept through the Harbour City.


They were forced to relocate to south-east Queensland to complete the season, and also had a three-match stint in Perth which ended with two disappointing losses to the Sydney Swans and West Coast Eagles before they defeated Fremantle in round fourteen.


After the round twelve loss to the Swans, in which they equaled their lowest-ever score of 3.7 (25), former St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt, in commentary for Fox Footy, struck a line through the Giants saying they wouldn't win the premiership in 2020.



Upon returning to the sunshine state, the Giants appeared to turn a corner when they defeated Carlton by nine points, but then came a frustrating two-goal loss to the Adelaide Crows which had many questioning the club's mindset, attitude and commitment.


Captain Stephen Coniglio was dropped for the game against Melbourne, in which the Giants fought to the death but were ultimately pipped when Demon Trent Rivers slotted what proved to be the winning goal in the final quarter.


The club's season from hell finally came to an end on Friday night when they failed to fire a shot after half-time in its match against St Kilda, being kept to only three goals, all in the first half, as they surrendered meekly by 52 points.


Unlike the Victorian clubs, the Giants (and Sydney Swans for that matter) were not granted the luxury of having their partners and families join them in the hubs, not least in WA where the state's hard border and strict quarantine protocols made it impossible.


Still, having to spend two months away from home, not being able to play in front of their supporters in Sydney after round eight, as well as having to do a long return cross of the country from Queensland to Perth, should not be accepted as excuses for the club's failures in 2020.


Coach Leon Cameron said after the loss to the Saints that the club "rolled over" when their season was on the line, while also saying they failed to fire so much a shot all season, despite some impressive victories against the Geelong Cats, Collingwood and Richmond.


But you also have to question how they could've lost to the likes of North Melbourne (in round two), the Sydney Swans (in round twelve) and the Adelaide Crows (in round sixteen) - teams tha