From franchise to footy club, the Giants finally belong

Greater Western Sydney's big, big sound went deathly silent about midway through the second quarter of Saturday's Grand Final.

The 89-point loss to Richmond can be described in many ways: Insipid, deplorable, shocking, a Giant choke ... the list goes on.

But, those horrific two hours on Saturday aside, their 2019 season could soon be described as the year GWS finally transformed from expansion franchise to respected football club.

In making it to the last Saturday in September, the Giants answered many critics on the field and won many friends off it.

GWS' path to the Grand Final wasn't a simple one, finishing sixth on the ladder before comfortably defeating the Western Bulldogs and then securing heartstopping wins over Brisbane and Collingwood on the way to the decider.

After 40 minutes of gametime in the Grand Final, it was obvious their charge would fall well short, with Richmond's fierceness at ground level, immense pressure all over the ground, rock-solid defence and myriad attacking threats paving the way to a second flag in three years. Oh, and they also had a guy by the name of Dusty in their side.

For the Giants, the defeat will be a horribly bitter pill to swallow after they broke new ground to reach the decider.

But after they dust themselves off, officials, players, and fans will surely look back on 2019 as a year of huge growth for a club that played its first real match in March, 2012. It was a season in which a growing, proud culture became obvious.

There were positives everywhere: the development of Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper, Zac Williams, Sam Taylor, Nick Haynes and Jeremy Finlayson has been obvious; the depth of talent and mental resilience to overcome another season cruelled by injury; a team that's now as comfortable rolling its sleeves up instead of relying on supreme talent to win games.

Greene's late-season tribunal tribulations ensured the gifted and combative small forward entered the Grand Final as a pantomime villain but his aggression and fierce competitive spirit were huge reasons why his team made it that far in the first place. And if they were being honest, wouldn't most fans of rival clubs love him playing in their colours?

The vision of Greene, injured star Stephen Coniglio, CEO Dave Matthews and a close-knit group of other Giants huddled in the front row of the MCG, enduring the frenetic final few minutes of their club's upset preliminary final win over Collingwood, and the joyous scenes after the finals siren sounded, showed just how much this group cares for each other.

That victory of course kickstarted a social media firestorm of the most lighthearted and humorous fashion, with #bigbigsound and some of the best crossover memes trending throughout Australia in the lead-up to the Grand Final, with the GWS social media team capitalising on the groundswell of humour in spectacular fashion.

As strange as it sounds, the fact a bunch of immature -- and largely hysterical -- gifs and memes went viral and trended for several days might have been the moment the broader football public started to accept and even begrudgingly like the league's newest club. No longer was it viewed as a fake franchise that would be gifted premierships thanks to the AFL's overly generous start-up concessions - now it was a legitimate football clubs with real fans and a growing presence on and off the field.

A Grand Final win would of course been a fairytale finish, but fairytales don't turn up all that often.

That culture will be severely tested after Saturday's shellacking. Many clubs fall apart after falling apart on the biggest stage -- you only need to look back to Adelaide's fall from grace after the 2017 Grand Final debacle -- but GWS needs to find a way to use this loss as motivation.

It's obvious the talent is there - despite most of the team failing to show up at the MCG on Saturday. But if the Giants can harness the hurt from Saturday and continue to play with the ruthless streak displayed for most of 2019, then there may well be a big, big sound playing loudly once the 2020 Grand Final is finished. And the AFL will be better off for their emergence.