LACHIE Whitfield was considered a Giant long before he officially became one. But the classy No.1 pick, who joined Greater Western Sydney in the 2012 NAB AFL Draft after a year of being touted as their selection, didn't always see his stay at the club as being a lengthy one.
Upon arriving at the start-up club, Whitfield thought his time in Sydney, away from family in Victoria, would be limited. But now, as he heads into Friday night's clash with St Kilda for his 150th game for the Giants, it is a different picture.
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"I thought, probably like a lot of the draftees getting sent up here, that it's the two years then back to Melbourne type of set-up, but I fell in love with the city, fell in love with the people and moved into a really nice spot in Sydney and I can't see myself moving back," the 26-year-old told AFL.com.au this week.
"I wanted to give myself a good chance in Sydney after playing those first few games. I thought 'We've got talent, I can see hard workers, maybe we'll be able to make something out of this'.
"I re-signed pretty quickly for an extra two years after that and I thought once I get to the end of four years I'll reassess, and if we're not where I think we should be by then then I'll probably go. Then we started winning around that time. Winning makes footy a whole lot more fun and easier."
It's why Whitfield, who is locked in to the Giants until the end of 2027 on a mammoth long-term deal, would rather be hitting the milestone in better times.
The Giants have only a glimmer of hope they can make this year's finals series even if they overcome the Saints at the Gabba, with them relying on Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs to lose and themselves to pick up a percentage boost.
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Whitfield said it had been hard to nail the issues that have caused the Giants' inconsistency this season, but doesn't attribute any blame to last year's horror Grand Final performance.
"This year, along with last year at times, has been pretty frustrating. Just the fluctuations between our best and worst has been too big. Our best got us to a Grand Final last year, and I don't think our form has been too much different in terms of our best this year compared to last. It's just not as frequent," he said.
"That's the issue and that's the struggles. We don't feel like we're doing a whole lot different to previous years, it's just happening. We've still got hope that we can get into the finals after a good performance this weekend."
Having entered the year as one of the premiership fancies, and enjoyed a stellar win over Geelong in round one, the Giants have won only seven of their next 16 games, including only two of their past six games with a finals spot on the line.
Whitfield said it wouldn't be a wasted season if they don't make the top eight, but admits it has been hard to explain the form trough.
"It's been a weird year, it's been challenging, but that's really no excuse because every other club's going through it. Maybe we haven't handled it as well as other clubs. It's a year of adversity and it's been tough," he said.
"Losing's not really in our nature, especially through the last half a dozen years. We've still won a lot of good games this year, we've just lost a lot of games we shouldn't have, so I sort of feel like it's definitely our own fault.
"That's probably what we have to look at, like why has this happened? But our best is still very, very good and very competitive against the best teams."
It has made for an interesting season for Whitfield to join the Giants' leadership group. Apart from the team's indifferent form, he has been switched into defence, last week captain Stephen Coniglio was dropped, this week Aidan Corr quit the club and there remains a number of high-profile players out of contract at the Giants.
Whitfield said the leadership position was thrust upon him by coach Leon Cameron.
"I never really considered myself a leader until this year. Leon pushed it on me and said 'When you talk the boys seem to listen'. I'm trying to get better as a leader and add that as a skill, which is tough at times," he said.
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He said he had left star free agents Jeremy Cameron and Zac Williams to sort through their futures with the club.
"I just let them go through their year. I've tried to speak to Zac a little bit, we're really tight and I still don't know what he'll do. I really hope he stays, the club hopes he stays, and it's up to him and I'm sure he'll make that decision post-season but I've got confidence he will stay," Whitfield said.