Adam Kingsley and (inset)'s Riley Beveridge with Giants assistant Craig Jennings. Photos: Phil Hillyard

UNTIL now, Adam Kingsley has been calm and methodical.

It's half-time of Greater Western Sydney's blockbuster Opening Round clash against reigning premier Collingwood and every Giants player is squeezed into the tight, intimate confines of a meeting area behind their Engie Stadium changerooms.

Kingsley has gone through the refined, simplified messages he has wanted to convey to his players all week, pointed to some key statistical metrics that show the Giants are fully worth their 19-point lead at the main break, and shows two edits on a TV screen of how his side can improve further in the second half.

But, when the television turns off, the energy picks up. Kingsley is now buzzing around the room as he implores his side to treat the game as though it's nil-nil. Players begin chipping in with their own words of encouragement, clapping and screaming. Suddenly, you can sense that the Opening Round victory the Giants so desperately crave is close, and Kingsley's final message to his group reflects that.

"At some point, this game is going to break," Kingsley says, raising the tone of his voice more and more as his speech reaches its crescendo. "I reckon it happens halfway through this quarter, I reckon it happens halfway through this next quarter," he repeats.

Sure enough, true to Kingsley's word, the Giants compile a run of four unanswered goals midway through the third term to crack open the contest and build an insurmountable lead. It's the perfect way to start their 2024 campaign, and the ideal next chapter for the club to write into this growing rivalry with the Magpies.

Throughout last week, was granted exclusive access into the coaches' box, meetings, changerooms and more as the Giants prepared for and executed this meticulous plan to beat the AFL's reigning premier. This is how they did it.'s Riley Beveridge and Giants footy boss Jason McCartney at Giants HQ ahead of GWS's match against Collingwood in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard


THE ROOM is locked in.

It's just over an hour until the Giants are due to run out onto Engie Stadium and begin their 2024 campaign and each player has broken into their own routine. Jesse Hogan hits a tennis ball into a changeroom wall, Brent Daniels shoots a basketball into a hoop pegged against a doorframe, others wander by themselves and listen to music on their headphones.

It's calm, but it's also restless. A full summer of work is about to come to fruition and the Giants are keen to show their wares. They are sick of waiting; they want to play. Fortunately, Kingsley is there to break the tension and the silence.

He calls his players into a separate meeting room, where the key messages repeatedly delivered throughout the week are written down for all to see. They are not complicated; they are instead simple reminders of what went wrong the last time they played Collingwood in that fateful one-point preliminary final loss last September.'s Riley Beveridge and Giants assistant Craig Jennings at Giants HQ ahead of GWS's match against Collingwood in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

This is a theme Kingsley picked up from Richmond's triple-premiership coach Damien Hardwick during his four years as an assistant at Punt Road. Never make the same mistake twice. He is at pains to remind his troops that until that preliminary final defeat, they hadn't lost to the same team twice for all of last season. Until that clash with Collingwood, they were 5-0 against teams that had previously beaten them. "Do you know why?" Kingsley asks his players. "Because we learn our lessons." Tonight, and indeed all throughout last week, was therefore all about learning their lessons.

"I think the big finding of the summer, coming from that preliminary final, was our connection to our roles and our system didn't run as deep as would have liked it to," Giants assistant coach Brett Montgomery tells

"To lose by a point and play OK – I don't think we played overly well that night – and then, with an audit, to work out that we were so far off in terms of the depth of our knowledge to our roles, was quite a silver lining. It was quite a positive finding, I thought."

Learning lessons might have been the main theme from the Saturday night pre-game address by the coach, but in reality it has been the case for 169 days since that deflating loss at the MCG.

GWS coach Adam Kingsley ahead of the Giants' Opening Round game against Collingwood in 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard


THE SYDNEY roads might be uncharacteristically quiet at this time, but inside Giants HQ it's a hive of activity.

The clock hasn't yet hit 7am on Thursday morning and already, every Giants coach is crowded inside one of the meeting rooms at their Olympic Park base. Today is the day the assistants, analysts and Kingsley himself drill down into Collingwood.

Externally, there has been a lot of buzz around this fixture. Last year's preliminary final, Mason Cox's 'livestock' comments, the inaugural Opening Round and even the Giants' own social media accounts have all contributed to the significant build-up. But, internally, Kingsley's message is the same as it has been publicly. This is just one of 23 home and away games the club will play this season.

While the Giants coaches might have referenced Collingwood in conversations between themselves throughout the off-season, this is the first day their summer of learnings will be exposed to the playing group.

Midfield coach Ben Hart leads a chat on how Collingwood prepares at stoppages, backline coach Montgomery speaks about how they will need to defend in transition, offence coach Craig Jennings and forwards coach Jeremy Laidler delve into how the Giants can attack the Pies. Analysts also have their say – Jack Harvey, who Kingsley poached from his former club Richmond as an opposition analyst last December – is particularly prominent.

GWS assistant Ben Hart ahead of their Opening Round game against Collingwood in 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

But this meeting still revolves around Kingsley. Although he leaves the bulk of the discussion to his assistants, his say is final and his opinion inside the room is respected. Carrying a themed dossier full of notes and talking points – its cover features the Collingwood logo next to the bright orange one of Greater Western Sydney's – he fully runs the show.

Kingsley's assistants have compiled a folder of more than 40 clips and edits from Collingwood's pre-season practice matches against North Melbourne and Richmond, as well as from last year's preliminary final defeat. Kingsley, without hesitation and with remarkable memory, continues to call upon those throughout the meeting. "Show No.29," he says, instantly recognising its relevance to the current topic of conversation. This is clearly a man prepared for the occasion ahead.

From there, those key takeaways are delivered to the players. First, they meet in the auditorium for a general chat about the game. Then, they break down into groups for more specific discussions relating to each line. Jennings and Laidler stay in the auditorium to go through offence, Montgomery heads to the communal area to chat defence, while Hart leads the players into the gym for stoppage work.

GWS players and assistant Jeremy Laidler ahead of their Opening Round game against Collingwood in 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Last year, when spent a week with the Giants across pre-season as Kingsley started his reign, the learnings were all new. Mistakes in recognising the key elements of the gameplan were frequent among the playing group. Twelve months on, this was a list that knew the finer details of that same gameplan like the backs of their hands.

On separate occasions across the morning, Lachie Whitfield addressed the group on something he'd picked out at training the week before. Tom Green then grabbed the clicker from an assistant coach and went through an edit himself, while Daniels was caught shaking his head at the magnitude of an error during last year's preliminary final defeat.

"Utopia is that I don't talk and 'Kingers' doesn't talk," Montgomery says.

"But we're still in a position where they're still learning. They're still happy to be told, but really the pure gold in this is when they're talking to one another and we're at that point now. Particularly around a system like ours, up against a system that's very similar like Collingwood's, you'd expect them to have a fair amount of say in it.

"It's not like we're coming up against something that's foreign to them. That preliminary final is pretty fresh in their minds around what worked and what didn't work. Not necessarily the disappointment, more what fell apart."

GWS assistant Brett Montgomery ahead of their Opening Round game against Collingwood in 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Such lessons are put into practice across the last main training session before Saturday night's clash, before lunch is served and shared with a special guest. Popular TikTok food critic 'Big John' is in Australia from the United Kingdom, with a couple of Instagram DMs from injured star Isaac Cumming enough to convince him to join the Giants for a buffet midway through the morning.

As Big John's catchphrase of 'boshhh' rings out among laughing players in the dining area, the coaches return to the meeting rooms after lunch for their final match committee discussion. It's a process that starts with the club's head of medical, James Rahme, running through anyone injured or carrying knocks. It then gets into the nitty gritty of the team selection.

As part of this, the match committee meeting looks at Collingwood's possible team for Saturday night and any potential match-ups – both forward and behind the ball – that could eventuate as a result. There is also an analysis of contingency plans, such as what happens if a certain key player goes down injured? Or do they begin to tag if an opposition player like Nick Daicos, Jordan De Goey or Darcy Moore starts to run the game?

Surprisingly, though, perhaps the most time is spent debating the Giants' substitute for Saturday night's clash. After the 22 is decided, everyone in the room has their say before Kingsley makes the final call. On this occasion, it's youngster Toby McMullin who gets the nod.


THE MAJORITY of the preparation for the Giants' Opening Round clash against Collingwood was clinical and methodical. Friday morning wasn't, though. Friday morning was pure, absolute chaos.

The previous day, during one of the coaches' meetings, Laidler had suggested what he described as "a line challenge". The premise would be the forwards group, up against the midfield group, up against the backline group, in a random weekly competition before every captain's run. "It'll be a little energiser for them," Laidler said.

The first 'line challenge' of the season pits the players in a competition to see who can bounce as many table tennis balls off a board and into a small rubbish bin as possible. After one minute, the line group to land the most balls wins. The next 60 seconds might be as loud as the group gets all week, with competitive juices flowing.

GWS players ahead of their Opening Round game against Collingwood in 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

From there, the team breaks into its walk-throughs. Completed on a small, artificially turfed indoor football field – known as 'The Cage' at the Giants – the players take ownership of the positional adjustments they have prepared for ahead of Saturday night. Led almost solely by the players, with minimal intervention from the coaches – Kingsley even observes from outside 'The Cage' – it's instead incumbent on the 23 picked for the clash against Collingwood to know their roles in any given situation.

"That growth has been massive," Laidler tells

"If I do a specific line craft session, 12 months ago we were teaching every role. We were breaking down roles to each individual in the forward line. This year, they know their roles. We might touch on it briefly, but then we can go into how can I make the key forwards better? What specifically do they need, compared to the small forwards? It's been huge."

After the captain's run, Friday is completed by Kingsley's final meeting ahead of the weekend's fixture. This is truly his time to shine. He shows a couple of edits, reiterates the fundamentals the side will need to execute on Saturday, and goes through the team that's been named to face the Magpies.

There is an acknowledgement of debutant Harvey Thomas, who has been one of the summer's standouts after arriving at the club with pick No.59 last November. There is also a call-out for Nick Haynes, back into the side after a frustrating 2023 campaign blighted by injury and form issues.

Harry Himmelberg presents Harvey Thomas with his jumper before Greater Western Sydney's clash against Collingwood in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

But it's Kingsley's final presentation that everyone is really waiting for. Throughout his maiden season in an AFL hot seat, the Giants coach became renowned for the creative and inspiring ways used to motivate his troops. One of last year's themes – "Why not us?" – was relative basic, but was emblematic of the side's remarkable journey from the League's bottom four to a preliminary final in just 12 months. This time around, one of the themes for the 2024 Giants would be the 2013 Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks.

The lights in the club's auditorium dim as Kingsley shows clips of Seattle coach Pete Carroll, as well as the NFL team's star players Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman leaving the field after the Seahawks were beaten in the 2012 Divisional Round playoff game the year prior. They are not upset, though. Instead, they know their journey is at its start, not its end. Kingsley acknowledges that it's eerily similar to the feeling at the Giants after last season's preliminary final defeat.

The following season, the Seahawks played a feared San Francisco 49ers team in the second week of their campaign. Those same Seattle stars now speak about how they saw the fixture as a chance to set the tone for their season by beating the League's benchmark early in the year. The Giants, playing the reigning premier Collingwood, would have that same opportunity on Saturday evening.

By the time the Seahawks make it through to the season's decider – once again beating the 49ers, this time in the NFC Championship game – the main motivation for their players is now set on winning Seattle its first ever Super Bowl title. The Giants players themselves, all fully invested in the storyline, can pick out the similarities in this moment easily. Their chance to win the club a maiden flag could come later in the season, provided they do their jobs between now and September, starting against Collingwood.

"Enjoy tomorrow night, boys," Kingsley says, as the lights in the auditorium flick back on.

GWS players and coach Adam Kingsley ahead of their Opening Round game against Collingwood in 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard


KINGSLEY likes to talk about the 'yin and yang' within his coaching style. But that's perhaps never better reflected than in his coaches' box, where chaos and mayhem is mixed with fascinating insight and perfectly delivered messaging.

As the printer whirls late in the first quarter, spitting out a series of statistics and key metrics, the club's head of analytics and operations, Mitch Hanrahan, shouts the game's important numbers to the group of assistants seated in front of him.

Laidler asks performance analyst Amy O'Reilly to clip vision of their forward setup, Hart chats with fellow analyst Aidan Russell about the stoppage systems, Jennings requests the TV located on the bench downstairs to be updated with key messages, while Montgomery stitches a lot of the fundamentals together among the assistants.

Jason McCartney, the club's highly respected executive general manager of football, is glued into the headset that connects to Kingsley on the bench. Every time the senior coach wants to be informed on something, or wants a message to be delivered somewhere, McCartney is the one entrusted to get the attention of the relevant assistant or analyst.'s Riley Beveridge and Giants footy boss Jason McCartney at Giants HQ ahead of GWS's match against Collingwood in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Alicia Eva, the club's former AFLW captain who is now mixing playing with roles as a VFL assistant coach and an AFL development coach, is also there. As is Darren Ratten, an AFLW assistant who also has a VFL coaching role. Both chime in with any additional observations across the course of the night.

Adriano Arguedas-Soley is the club's sports scientist and monitors the distances covered, speeds clocked, rotations made and other fitness indicators from his laptop, while performance psychologist Paul Penna is also located inside the coaches' box throughout the night.

On the bench there is Kingsley, who moved downstairs to ensure better communication with his players midway through last year. He's joined by ruck coach Shane Mumford, who is often the conduit of messages between assistants and players. VFL coach Wayne Cripps is the team's runner, while development manager Jason Davenport plays a key role in ensuring players understand adjustments and role changes throughout the game.

"It was needed for 'Kingers' to be in the box in the early part," Laidler says.

"We got all new coaches last year. We didn't even know each other, or how we coached together. Having him in there and knowing his expectations on the gameplan and what we needed to deliver and message to players really helped us as a group of assistants. But then the trust he had in his assistants to control the game from down there, and the belief he had in us upstairs to know we saw it now, it's been massive."

Adam Kingsley speaks to his players during Greater Western Sydney's clash against Collingwood in Opening Round, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Within 10 seconds on Saturday night, the assistants repay that faith. Immediately, they identify answers to a host of key Collingwood questions they had posed among themselves earlier in the week, be it role, structure or style related. But it doesn't help amid a slow start, where the Magpies burst into an early 10-point lead midway through the opening term.

The assistants lament slow decision-making, fumbles and turnovers. They urge more composure and bravery with the footy, asking analysts to highlight certain moments to show the players at the quarter-time break.

Three consecutive goals before the opening interval steady some nerves, but there are still improvements to be made. Some of them come immediately in the second term, where the coaches are once again able to instantly recognise the adjustments that Collingwood has executed at the change of ends.

Suddenly, the side's offensive efficiency clicks. Aaron Cadman pulls down a strong contested mark. "Great catch, kid," Laidler says. Hogan takes another big grab. "He's been outstanding," Jennings adds. A run of five goals from the last six puts the Giants in control, until a setback strikes.

A tackle from Collingwood's ferocious small forward Beau McCreery has levelled experienced midfielder Callan Ward, who is clutching at his shoulder. Immediately, the contingency plans spoken about during Thursday's match committee meeting are required as the assistants wait on any updates.


A few minutes later, McCartney receives word from his medical team. Ward is done for the night, meaning the substitute McMullin is onto the field. He will spend periods on a wing, with the highly rated Xavier O'Halloran handed more midfield minutes for the remainder of the match. It's a blow, but not enough to break the spirits among the coaching group.

"Great half," Jennings says, as the buzzer sounds for the main break.


AS SOON as the assistants take their seats back in the coaches' box after the half-time interval, Kingsley is on the phone.

While the Giants coach has found many benefits in being situated on the bench – like the ability to communicate directly with his players – the downside is not having a premium view of the action. Therefore, Kingsley is reliant on his assistants to gauge the adjustments an opposition side has made at half-time, as well as the overall flow of the game.

He asks if they're seeing anything different from Collingwood to start the second half, or whether anything can be done to deny Nick Daicos the football. The young Magpies superstar has had 19 disposals to half-time, with the question of a tag briefly raised among the assistants upstairs.

The conversations come amid the start of a third quarter that Collingwood dominates territorially. And yet the backline, led by Montgomery – himself thought of both internally at the Giants and externally around the League as a potential senior coach in waiting – stands firm throughout. The Pies can only muster three behinds for the term, with the game-breaking moments that Kingsley referenced during his half-time speech instead occurring at the other end. "We're weathering this storm," Hart says.

Yet, the intensity doesn't drop. Perhaps it's recognition of Collingwood's standing as the AFL's comeback kings, but no Giants goal is genuinely celebrated until Daniels converts to extend the margin to 52 points midway through the final quarter. Even still, it's immediately followed by a return to normality. The same utmost attention to detail, and the stern faces to match, are present all around the coaches' box. Even despite possessing an insurmountable advantage late in the game, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a one-score contest with just minutes remaining.


McCartney, throughout the night, announces the timings of the quarter. "Six minutes to go, boys … four minutes … two minutes … one minute." But it's not until the final second has come off the clock, met by the horn of the final siren, that the assistants finally turn to each other and embrace. "Well done crew," Montgomery says.

After 169 days of planning, preparation and deliberation, victory is met with a combination of satisfaction and relief. "How f---ing good was that?" Kingsley says, finally greeting his players after they complete nearly 20 minutes of media duties and family time in a joyous changeroom.

While the meeting area where they are soon situated had been tense, quiet and intimate earlier in the night, now it is overflowing. Everyone – players, emergencies, those picked for VFL action, support staff, directors and more – are invited to the celebrations this time around.

Kingsley is buoyant. Gags are cracked, mostly at small forward Daniels' expense – "how can someone kick four goals on their birthday and still look so miserable?" – while recognition of the work that went into this match is duly delivered across the room. But, typical of the coach's 'yin and yang' mantra, it's followed by a serious message.

He asks the room for their thoughts on the night's work. His own take? "The best part is we were nowhere near our best," he says. There is improvement to come, which Kingsley identifies as he shows his group a breakdown of the contest. There are stats, messages and vision, all presented with the type of methodical analysis one could hardly have expected given the energy pulsating around the area mere seconds ago.

It's reflective of a coaching group, a playing cohort and an entire club satisfied with their work on one night, but one night only. Everyone, to a tee, is acutely aware there are loftier goals to achieve this season.

"Enjoy the night," Kingsley says. "But tomorrow, we're onto the Kangas."