Greater Western Sydney coach Kevin Sheedy is targeting as many as six wins in 2013 as his fledgling AFL club aims to build on a solid inaugural season.
To many pundits, the Giants’ two wins this year with 36 debutants in their squad and average home crowds of around 11,000 in a highly competitive Sydney football market can be regarded as a relative success.
Although the veteran mentor concedes winning games is “pretty crucial” for the future of the Giants, the code’s most prominent ambassador likes to look at the bigger picture.
For Sheedy that’s growing the AFL’s profile in Australia’s largest city, as he philosophised on Wednesday about his goals for 2013.
And Sheedy believes crosstown rivals the Swans’ premiership win will only benefit his side.
Far from being intimidated by the A-League’s Sydney derby that attracted a raucous crowd of 26,000 last weekend, he says the AFL should be excited that sports fans crave city rivalries.
Reflecting on a challenging year that yielded wins over Gold Coast and Port Adelaide, Sheedy insists a solid foundation has been laid for the future.
“You’d hope we can get between three to six wins (in 2013) depending on injuries and how the season plans out,” he said after a tough training session in warm conditions.
“We ran out with the most first-game players this year in the history of footy, so that makes it hard to balance out where you’re going to be the following year.
As big a concern for the 64-year-old is building the AFL in Sydney and avoiding the fate of the Gold Coast Suns, who suffered a 20 per cent drop in memberships and crowds in their second season in the competition this year.
Sheedy gave a back-handed compliment to his former club Richmond, who he played 251 games for between 1967-1979.
Despite not winning a premiership over the past 30 years, he paid tribute to the club’s culture that has created continued popularity in the face of some on-field struggles.
“It’s quite an amazing story,” said Sheedy.
“It’s about how you create a football club.
“(And) the best thing about this club (GWS) is it’s a white canvas. We can create our own history.”
Sheedy hopes GWS can boost their membership tally to 15,000 with an exciting crop of youngsters coming through and having recruited the likes of experienced defenders Bret Thornton from Carlton and Stephen Gilham from Hawthorn.
“There’s 350,000 people in Sydney that barrack for AFL clubs,” he said.
“We need to find them and encourage them to build our game.
“If we’re the second club (they support), I don’t have a problem with that, although I’d love us to be their first.”
Far from embracing a siege mentality against rival football codes, Sheedy welcomes the options open to youngsters in the west.
“We’re the only country that has the four codes – AFL, rugby league, rugby union, soccer,” he said.
“It’s the best way to go in this country. We deliver the whole menu in football. That’s what makes us a special place.”