DUAL best and fairest winner Josh Kelly has opened up on the frustration of a campaign that will almost certainly fail to yield finals football for Greater Western Sydney, but is adamant it's not a 'season lost'.
Barring a minor miracle, the Giants, who sit in 14th spot on the ladder with four wins and 10 losses, will miss out on the top eight for just the second time in seven years.
It's a season that has seen a change of coach from Leon Cameron to Mark McVeigh and an upturn in form overall since, but after gallant defeats to the Western Bulldogs and Collingwood over the past fortnight, GWS' already slim finals hopes have been all but dashed.
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Kelly, 27, admits that hurts but it's still a season that can help prove fruitful for the club in the future.
"It's disappointing for the whole club if that's the case. We're a club over the last patch that's always been amongst it and played finals. Our goal is to win a Grand Final. Luckily enough we've built a strong culture where that is the expectation," Kelly said.
"To be hovering outside that mark is disappointing for us but at the same time we're really wary of the fact that it's not a season lost.
"It's really important to keep working on certain parts of the game and off-field because ultimately that will set us up for the years ahead and that's something we take a lot of pride in."
With the likes of Kelly, Toby Greene, Sam Taylor, Tim Taranto, Steven Coniglio and Tom Green still in the sweet spot of their careers, a Giants bounce back next season is unlikely to be discounted.
That may largely be determined by their incoming permanent coach and while Alastair Clarkson continues to be heavily linked to the role, Kelly has been full of praise for the work done in the interim by McVeigh.
"Mark's been great for the club. He has been around for a long period now but the way he's stepped into the role and the passion he's done it with is great to see. He's changed a few things to the gameplan, I'm loving what he's doing," Kelly said.
A 2017 All-Australian, Kelly has enjoyed another consistent season in the heart of the midfield, averaging close to 29 disposals and is relishing linking up with his fellow co-captain in Coniglio who has returned to his best form in season 2022.
"It's been great to see 'Cogsy' back up and running," Kelly said.
"At the moment, back in the midfield he's having a huge impact on games, offensively and defensively. He makes me a better player and us a better team so it's awesome to see."
Sunday's clash at Giants Stadium presents a good opportunity for GWS to return to winning ways for the first time since their round 13 thumping of North Melbourne when they take on a Hawthorn side sitting one spot below them on the ladder.
"They're a young team playing an exciting brand of footy. We've had a few close ones over the last few weeks," he said.
"The opportunity is there for us to play some good footy and continue working on the brand that we're trying to display and ultimately we do want to get the four points."