Recap of last season

Last season started poorly, with the Giants winning just two of their first nine games. Toby Greene was suspended for the first month of the season for his brain fades in the 2021 semi-final, where he made contact with the umpire and his impact was missed early.

The rough start was enough for Leon Cameron to resign as head coach after nine rounds, with Mark McVeigh stepping in as caretaker coach for the remainder of the season. After early signs, his impact also petered out, winning just four games across his tenure, as the Giants slumped to 15th.

With injuries piling up, the season petered out, following an exodus of sorts, as Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, as well as Tanner Bruhn, left in search of new clubs, while Matt de Boer retired from the game.

How they can improve

New coach Adam Kingsley is expected to bring a revitalised game plan to the table. If the new plan involves more forward-line pressure, and more marking presence forward of the ball, the Giants will likely be big improvers.

There is already a stacked midfield, despite the losses of Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper, with Josh Kelly, Tom Green, Stephen Coniglio and Callan Ward as headline acts, and there are outside players like Lachie Whitfield and Finn Callaghan who can move the ball with precision. All they need is someone to target with the ball and a way to lock it in.

If the Giants can find those things, there is plenty to like about this side already. This side is not that far removed from the side that challenged for a preliminary final berth 18 months ago, and if the spark can be rediscovered, then there's hope yet.

List changes

IN: Aaron Cadman (draft), Toby Bedford (Melbourne Demons), Jason Gillbee (rookie), Nick Madden (rookie), Toby McMullin (draft), Max Gruzewski (draft), Darcy Jones (draft), Harry Rowston (draft)

OUT: Jarrod Brander (delisted), Tanner Bruhn (Geelong Cats), Matt de Boer (retired), Bobby Hill (Collingwood Magpies), Jacob Hopper (Richmond Tigers), Zach Sproule (delisted), Jake Stein (delisted), Tim Taranto (Richmond Tigers)

Biggest strength

The defensive pillars of Sam Taylor and Isaac Cumming are set for the long term. Taylor, in particular, received the accolades he richly deserved as one of the best defenders in the game, with his first All-Australian berth.

Cumming and Taylor together have become a threat that can handle plenty of potent forward lines, and when additional tall help was required, Mark McVeigh was happy to shift Harry Himmelberg into defence to beef up the tall stocks.

And the young stars aren't the end of it. Nick Haynes has been a defensive force for a decade, and Phil Davis, when fit, can still grapple with elite key forwards. The combination of the quartet means that there is no forward line on paper that bests the Giants' defence.

Biggest weakness

With Toby Greene out at the start of last season, a spotlight was shone on the bare cabinet that is the Giants' forward line. With Greene out, Bobby Hill (now at Collingwood), Matt de Boer (now retired), Harry Himmelberg (now a swing defender) and Jesse Hogan (when fit) were the stars of the forward line.

Even when Greene returned, the Giants struggled to find a target not named Toby Greene, and when he couldn't mark, struggled to rove the contest effectively.

Without a clear path to goal, and without an effective bailout option, it was always going to be a struggle for the Giants to score enough points to be competitive in games, and that will continue in 2023 if more answers can't be found.

Rising Star

While Aaron Cadman was the first overall pick and labelled a "can't-miss" prospect, young key forwards can take time to develop. Darcy Jones, on the other hand, is probably still hoping for a growth spurt of some description, but that won't stop him from making a mark on the AFL if he gets a chance this season.

Small in stature, but lightning quick, Jones has shown in the WAFL that he has the pace to burn clear of packs, and a nose for the goals. Alongside Toby Bedford in the forward line or Finn Callaghan further up the ground, Jones has examples of how to play pressure football and distribute to teammates with silky smooth skills.

If he can learn from those two and can find his way into the Giants team, Jones will have the chance to make an impact for a team that will have ambitions of finals.

Prediction

The Giants, despite being so close to a finals berth two years ago, is very much in rebuild mode. A new coach, a new key forward, and a new game plan, all spell that this year will be a long year for the orange team.

While there is hope, and talk of the "orange tsunami" game style returning, the Giants will need to take big strides to be pushing towards finals, rather than a wooden spoon this year.

Even with a strong midfield, the path to goal from Jesse Hogan, Harry Himmelberg and Aaron Cadman doesn't look strong enough yet to kick a competitive score, week in and week out. Expect a few surprises, and a couple of upsets, and plenty of relevant football in August, but not yet a finals berth.

Ladder prediction: 16th

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