From frequent early floggings to within touching distance of a maiden finals appearance.
Greater Western Sydney are well on course to becoming the “bona-fide good AFL side” which co-captain Phil Davis says their second 100 games will be all about.
The Giants play their milestone 100th game on Sunday, with local rivals Sydney providing the opposition just as they did back in their very first competition game in 2012.
While the other fledgling club Gold Coast struggles, barely out of the chrysalis stage despite a one-year head start, the Giants show every sign of becoming a fully formed and successful franchise in the near future.
They have retained the majority of high draft picks selected in their early years, with players like combative forward Jeremy Cameron and speedy midfielder Dylan Shiel among the best in the league in their areas.
There was, however, plenty of early heartache for players like Cameron and Shiel, who have been along for the ride since the Giants’ inception.
Only three wins were earned from 44 matches over their first two seasons under coaching great Kevin Sheedy.
A much healthier record of 18 wins from their last 33 starts hints at a future full of promise for a maturing squad.
“Our last year and a half has been very pleasing,” says Giants’ co-captain Callan Ward.
“It seems like it’s turned into a big football club that one day hopefully can be a powerhouse in the competition.”
Fellow co-captain Phil Davis states the same goal.
“I hope we win a lot more games than the first 100,” says Davis.
“I think for us the next 100 is about becoming a bona-fide good AFL side.
“You look at our opposition this weekend, Sydney and every year they play finals.
“We want to become very much a bona-fide AFL side and compete and hopefully get into a position to win finals.”
Ward also drops football’s most important F word unprompted.
“We’re finally at the stage now where we can start challenging the top teams and hopefully look forward to playing in finals and that’s probably the goal,” Ward said.
While the Giants’ future looks rosy and their rise to prominence seems inevitable, it’s a far cry from years one and two during which they suffered 10 thrashings by 100 or more points.
“There were never times when I ever actually regretted coming up, but there were definitely times when I thought `Wow this is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be’,” Ward says.
Davis felt the excitement of being an AFL neophyte helped the Giants cope with their first season, in which they suffered 14 losses of 10 goals or more, including one torturous stretch of six games where they were smashed by 78, 94, 162, 119, 95 and 120 points.
The Giants team for Sunday’s game will likely include only around seven players from the side that contested their first game.
“Seeing photos of our first-ever team it’s unbelievable how young every one looked, straight out of school,” says Davis.
“You look at that team now, so many of those players are playing very good AFL football, so the talent was always there.
“The team that runs out this weekend is obviously very different in terms of names from that first game, but a lot of people have gone the journey with us the whole way and that’s pretty special.”
Among those from that historic team to have moved to different pastures is Wallabies fullback Israel Folau.
He was making the first of 13 inauspicious AFL appearances sandwiched between dual international superstardom in the two rugby codes, but his presence guaranteed GWS precious early media coverage in a rugby league heartland.
“It’s just fantastic to see him playing so well, some of the things he learnt in the AFL hopefully helped him become the player he is now,” says Davis.
“I think a few of the boys still speak to him. He’s a great guy and had a big influence at the start of the journey.”
The only teams GWS still have to beat are West Coast, Richmond, North Melbourne and Collingwood – and they play all of them in the second half of this season.
GWS GIANTS AHEAD OF THEIR 100TH GAME
Overall: 27 wins, 72 losses
Longest winning streak: 6
Longest losing streak: 21
Most games: Callan Ward 94
Most goals: Jeremy Cameron 205
Most goals in a game: 7, Cameron (four times)
Biggest winning margin: 91 v Suns, Spotless Stadium, 2016
Biggest losing margin: 162 v Hawthorn, MCG, 2012
Highest score: 158 (24.14) v Hawthorn, Spotless Stadium, 2016
Lowest score: 31 (4.7) v Hawthorn, MCG, (2012)
Most wins against: Gold Coast, Melbourne (both 4)
Least wins against: (0) West Coast, Richmond, North Melbourne, Collingwood