In many ways these two clubs that welcomed new coaches last off-season enter September already having exceeded expectations, but that will be little consolation to whoever bows out after this elimination final.
The Giants come in as one of the hottest teams in the League, winning nine of their past 11 matches, including a final round triumph over red-hot Carlton, to qualify for the top eight. On the other hand, St Kilda had to defend its spot grimly as the season wore on, riding out a rough patch in the middle of the year to regain strong form late and frank Ross Lyon's first year back in charge.
All eyes will be on Sam Taylor's hamstring this week, with last year's All-Australian full-back crucial to the Giants' success.
Earlier this year...
Just before the Giants really got rolling under new coach Adam Kingsley, and while the Saints were humming under Lyon, the teams played out a gripping contest that involved 13 lead changes. It was Max King's first game back following a shoulder reconstruction and hamstring problems, and the Saints spearhead wasted no time returning to his best, booting four goals in the win. Jack Higgins (three goals) was also influential, while All-Australian Jack Sinclair (37 disposals and two goals) also had a huge say. Brent Daniels (24 and two goals) was exceptional for the Giants, and although they didn't get the premiership points, this performance was enough to show what was coming just around the corner.
The stats that matter
The Saints have been the toughest team to score against in 2023, giving up an average of less than 72 points a game. They've conceded more than 90 points just once – when the AFL's highest scoring team Adelaide put 121 on them in round nine. It should be little surprise with two All-Australians in the back six, Callum Wilkie and Jack Sinclair, but scoring against the Saints is easier said than done.
Greater Western Sydney
Although it's Ross Lyon teams that are known for defence and pressure, the Giants have built their game off tackling in 2023. They are ranked second for tackle differential (plus-6.2) and likewise for tackles inside forward 50 (plus three). If the Giants are within striking distance at three quarter-time, look out. Kingsley's team has won 16 of 23 final quarters this year, trailing only Melbourne (17) for the best mark in the League.
It's a big week for...
Jack Steele; the type of player that thrives on physicality and highly contested matches like finals. Leading his midfield to out-work Stephen Coniglio, Tom Green, Josh Kelly and Callan Ward will go a long way towards the Saints advancing to a semi-final.
Greater Western Sydney
Regardless of the fitness of Sam Taylor (who the Giants are obviously hopeful of regaining), Jack Buckley will have a big assignment. Max King kicked four goals last time the teams met, while Tim Membrey showed flashes of a return to form with his three goals in the final round against Brisbane. Slowly down their influence will make scoring difficult for the Saints.