GWS set to have a Giant impact on Sydney’s West
They may have lost their debut match against the Swans, but the GWS Giants are asserting their presence both on and off the field. Daniel McBride reports.
The Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants went down fighting in their local derby against Sydney Swans. The Swans were made to work for their 63-point victory in Saturday night’s season opener.
The young Giants showed tremendous endeavour and thirst for the contest, only letting their guards down for a chunk of the third quarter.
It was a far cry from last year’s Gold Coast debut in which the Suns were on the receiving end of a 119-point mauling from Carlton.
For a team with 17 debutants, the Giants showed tremendous courage and encouraging signs ahead of the AFL 2012 season.
Statistics show that every year, total attendance for the AFL is more than double the National Rugby League (NRL) and more than six times that of the A-league, according to theroar.com.au.
With the arrival of new expansion team the GWS Giants , the AFL is attempting to do the impossible; tackle the NRL’s heartland.
Having already won an impressive, pre season victory over the other new kids on the block, rivals Gold Coast Suns, the Giants prospects look brighter than many predicted.
Dual Geelong Cats premiership captain and general manager of AFL NSW/ACT Tom Harley says the timing of the new club could not be better. In an email response he stated:
“With a second team in Sydney now, the Greater Western Sydney Giants, there has never been a better time for people to come in contact with the game.”
Harley believes that a second team in Sydney will greatly boost promotional prospects for the AFL.
“A second team in Sydney means there will be double the school visits, double the content in Sydney and double the players and personnel promoting the game.”
The Giants have recruited well, acquiring veterans of the game to lead their young chargers in 2012. Some of the experienced heads include: Dean Brogan, Chad Cornes (both Port Adelaide Power premiership players), Setanta O Hailpin (ex Carlton Blues player) and Luke Power (three time Brisbane Lions premiership player).
They have also recruited some of the brightest young prospects in the game. Tom Scully (Melbourne Demons number one pick in the 2010 draft) and Jonathan Patton (2011 number one draft pick) are two players who have had huge wraps placed on them.
The most hyped recruit so far though has been that of high-profile rugby league convert Israel Folau, which serves as a testament that the AFL is quite literally winning over NRL stars and fans alike.
With a solid list and highly experienced head coach Kevin Sheedy at the helm, it seems that with time the Giants will become a force to be reckoned with.
Many people have doubted whether the GWS Giants would survive in Sydney, a city that traditionally favours other codes of football, such as rugby league, soccer and rugby union.
According to theroar.com.au website, the AFL averages almost 38,000 fans to each game, whereas the NRL only manages a poor 15,000 per game.
The target market for the AFL in Western Sydney is huge. Harley believes that failure isn’t on the cards, stating:
“There are almost 2 million people living in Western Sydney with a large proportion of these people never playing or watching AFL.”
With growing support at grass roots level, GWS’s future looks bright.
Yvonne Blackburn is the president of the Rooty Hill Power Junior AFL club. As a parent of three she prefers for her daughter and her two sons to play AFL over other sports, despite being a keen West Tigers supporter.
“I wasn’t really happy with the way other sports were run compared to AFL. My eldest is quite slender and I was worried about him playing against the much bigger boys.”
Blackburn says AFL provides a safer alternative. ”The AFL is a much safer sport and I love the atmosphere,” she said.
However, there is also scepticism as to the location and longevity of the GWS club. Hugh McDonnell, a passionate Manly Eagles supporter, believes that GWS will not last in Sydney.
“Sydney is too Rugby League dominated and GWS won’t be able to find a foothold in the market,” he said.
GWS has started a new chapter in AFL history and time will tell as to how well they fare in the hotly-contested Western Sydney market.