Everybody knew from the outset that the AFL’s push into the Western Sydney region was going to be a tough one.
“Nobody likes that crap,” people muttered. Pejorative names such as Aerial ping pong, GayFL and “that shit sport where they wear short-shorts” were used interchangeably.
And while the Giants have somewhat made their mark out west, they are a long way off of entrenching themselves in the region.
Take the Giants position and compare it to the new Wanderers A-League franchise and it’s basically chalk and cheese.
It’s actually surprising how well the Wanderers have done on and off the field.
And maybe that on field component is part of the success.
Nobody likes watching a team get thrashed (unless Collingwood’s on the receiving end), so while the Giants are in their infancy and copping 100-point beltings each week, the naysayers will continue to have a smirk on their face and the potential fans won’t turn up until the club starts winning games.
You need to win games to engage support.
Perhaps another reason you could say the Wanderers are doing much better is because of the sport itself.
Due to West Sydney’s immigrant communities, soccer has a purpose and is representative of those communities.
The AFL is entrenched in the southern states; however it takes a back seat to the other three codes in Sydney.
It’s all about culture. If you don’t grow up with a sport, you find it very hard to feel a part of it. Only until recently have I taken an interest in soccer. In Adelaide, it’s footy in the winter, cricket in the summer. So I enjoy those sports’ more due to my upbringing with them.
For example; when you see the Giants doing things such as displaying the rules of the game to the crowd on the big screen, you know it’s reflective of the areas’ lack of knowledge on the sport.
The failing experiment of bringing Israel Folau to the Giants was highly controversial. When you head hunt one of the superstars of a rival code simply to get a bit of attention and a couple of extras through the turnstiles, it shows the club in a negative light.
Ok; say Adelaide got a rugby league team and head hunted Patrick Dangerfield to play for the new team just to get attention, do you think it would work?
They’d certainly get attention; but more along the lines of white collar workers and grandmas rioting in Victoria Square than a sell out at a rugby league match.
Essentially the Giants have gone about things haphazardly.
Not only have they pissed off the population with their head hunting of a player from West Sydney’s favourite code, they’ve also created an inexperienced team set to lose the majority of this season’s games in the fickle sporting landscape of Sydney that’s expectant of winners.
The Giants also need to let the game grow in the region, and avoid tacky approaches to create interest in the game, such as displaying the rules on the scoreboard.
Soccer has come in, put a team together and a winning team at that, and hasn’t worried about poaching players to make headlines.
The Wanderers have played it cool, put a competitive team on the park, represented the region properly and as a result, seem a natural fit in West Sydney.
Playing it cool is the name of the game.
So do I think it will be alright in the future? Sure, but not for a while yet.
It took the Sydney Swans fifteen years to even be recognised as a big player in the Sydney sporting landscape, and since then they’ve still had trouble consistently gaining significant media attention year in, year out.
But sure, in time the Giants should get a pretty decent following.
West Sydney’s population is massive and if the Giants start representing the region properly, I think more people will start to show their support.
But until that happens, the Wanderers will continue to be miles ahead.