‘Why not us’: Kingsley has Giants dreaming big for AFL finals

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Former Richmond assistant Adam Kingsley arrived at Greater Western Sydney for his first role as senior coach last August with a daunting in-tray to digest. The Giants had just finished 16th on the ladder and the famed big, big sound from the west of the town had become a whisper.

What a difference a year makes. Under Kingsley’s inspired leadership the Giants are brimming with confidence as one of the form teams in the competition after winning nine out of their last 11 games.

The opening half of the season was always going to be difficult for players and coach with a new system to learn and execute. There was also a new single captain in Toby Greene, who ultimately relished the increased responsibility, pushing his performances to new levels. Initial teething problems have given way to a wide beaming smile.

Kingsley wants his players to enjoy the game and there is a unique and infectious atmosphere in the Giants’ training centre in Sydney Olympic Park. Off the field, players mingle easily with staff in the club’s coffee shop. Players like Adam Kennedy are involved in the club’s irreverent and often hilarious social media content.

Speaking on Thursday, Kingsley explained the importance of striking a balance between being focused on the field and creating a fun culture for players, especially moving into the pressure of finals.

“You can’t always be head down and just focusing on the game,” he said.

Greater Western Sydney coach Adam Kingsley talks to his players during Round 3 against CarltonCredit: AFL Photos

“Because ultimately, if you spend all that nervous energy playing the game before you’ve actually stepped out on the field, it’s not helpful. And if you don’t actually enjoy the moment, you probably look back at the journey and think, well, it wasn’t all that enjoyable and that’s certainly not what we want to create.

“You can hear the guys there in the background having some fun and that’s who we are and that’s what we want to be. I think we’ve been that across the course of the year irrespective of win and loss.”

The Giants possess an experienced core of players who drive standards on and off the field. Midfielder and vice-captain Stephen Coniglio is playing outstanding football, liberated from the demands of co-captaincy the previous year.

The Giants’ final regular-season win over Carlton showed how far the team had come in a relatively short time. Greene’s four-goal haul was complemented by a resolute defence standing up to wave after wave of Blues attacks.

Stephen Coniglio and Toby Bedford of the Giants celebrate during the Round 24 match against CarltonCredit: AFL Photos

Against St Kilda on the bigger ground at the MCG, the Giants will face a different challenge. They have only played there once this season, in round nine when Collingwood romped to an emphatic win.

The Saints possess one of the toughest defences in the competition headlined by their All Australians Jack Sinclair and Callum Wilkie. Greene will be tightly shackled from the first bounce and he will need all of his guile to find scoring opportunities.

The news that forward Toby Bedford is free to play after having a one-match suspension overturned for an off-the-ball bump against Carlton will give the team a major morale boost and provide forward pressure in the opposing 50.

The Giants will be equally focused on their defence, given the constant threat of St Kilda’s key forward Max King. The return of their elite key defender Sam Taylor from injury to the line-up is perfectly timed.

The battle between rucks Kieran Briggs and Rowan Marshall will also provide an intriguing side plot in the game. Sydney native Briggs is now one of the key players in the Giants’ line-up at just 23, while Marshall is enjoying an outstanding season. It will be fascinating to see who comes out on top in the contest.

Greater Western Sydney enter their elimination final against St Kilda capable and confident of beating anyone. Defender Harry Himmelberg said during the week that the Giants have been asking ‘why not us?’ It is hard to argue with him.

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