Fairytale Grand Finals don’t happen very often in sport, but unbelievably they’ve occurred the last two years straight in the AFL.
In 2016, the Western Bulldogs broke a 62-year premiership drought when they defeated the Sydney Swans, while last September Richmond won their first flag since way back in 1980.
Ironically, both teams faced the GWS Giants in each of their Preliminary Finals before going on to Grand Final glory.
On the eve of the 2018 AFL season, Giants defender Nick Haynes said it was “tough” losing to the eventual Premiers in back to back years.
“That year against the Bulldogs – our first Finals – losing at home against them was tough and it was the exact same feeling last year when we lost to the Tigers,” he told the Weekender.
“It hurts extra hard when those two teams go on to win the flag as well.”
After falling agonisingly short two years in a row, many AFL experts are still predicting the Giants to be right up there come season’s end. Haynes hopes 2018 will be the Giants’ turn for a fairytale finish.
“That would be nice but there’s 17 other clubs in the competition trying to do the same as well,” he said.
“The competition is very even as we know from the last couple of years, and there’s about a dozen clubs putting their hand up to win the flag this year.
“Hopefully some of the things we’ve been working on in the pre-season we can implement during the year.”
25-year-old Haynes was in All-Australian contention last season before going down in Round 6 with a significant hamstring injury, which saw him sidelined for six weeks.
Fortunately, Haynes was able to return and help his side to another Finals series.
The 2011 Draft pick said he’s feeling the best he’s ever felt ahead of this Sunday’s opening round clash against the Western Bulldogs in Canberra.
“I enjoyed one of my first full pre-seasons at the club and I’m excited to get out there,” Haynes said.
“As a club we love going down to Canberra. Whether it’s raining, freezing or hot, we always get a good crowd and atmosphere there. We have a lot of fans in Canberra, we love playing there.”
While Canberra is GWS’s home away from home, the Giants will play their first official home game in western Sydney at Spotless Stadium in Round 4.
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.