Greater Western Sydney’s surge to AFL prominence is no surprise to Sydney coach John Longmire, who rates his cross-town rivals and initial finals opponents a real threat.
Perennial contenders Sydney and the maiden finalists clash in a qualifying final at ANZ Stadium a week from Saturday.
Three years after logging just one win in a full season, the Giants have zoomed to fourth on the ladder after notching 16 victories in 2016 – just one less than minor premiers Sydney.
In the past 12 months alone, GWS have risen seven places and bumped their win tally from 11 to 16.
“We knew the Giants were coming 100 miles an hour and we’ve been able to see the development up close,” Longmire said on Tuesday.
“We’ve been able to see their younger players through the reserves and seniors.
“We’ve been able to see the outstanding recruitment of senior players from other clubs that have had a lot of experience and the difference that’s made to their team.
“It hasn’t come any time sooner than what I expected. I absolutely expected the Giants to be as competitive as they are at this point in time.
“They are going to be a real threat through this finals series.”
The Sydney teams split their two home-and-away games, but the Giants’ 43-point victory in round 12 was easily the Swans’ biggest loss of the season.
“We were pretty ordinary against the Giants last time and we need to improve on that,” Longmire said.
Sydney co-captain Jarrad McVeigh said the Swans hadn’t spoken about that game yet, but made it clear they had payback on their minds.
“They got hold of us then. This game will be even bigger than that, so we’ll look to get one back on them,” McVeigh said.
“They taught us a lesson that game, so we definitely have to improve on that.”
While Sydney will field up to three times as many players with finals experience as the Giants, Longmire doubted that would be an advantage to Sydney.
“If you look at their team, I think last week they had seven players over 120 games, three premiership players,” Longmire said.
“i think both teams last weekend probably had the same games average.”