Giant challenges ahead for Greater Western Sydney
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Shannon Byrnes (left) and Michael Evans of the Demons celebrate during the 2013 AFL round 04 match between the Melbourne Demons and the GWS Giants. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Greater Western Sydney’s foray into becoming a strong AFL entity in Western Sydney has come under immense pressure for a myriad of reasons in the past 48 hours.
This has become even more acute after being demolished by 135 points against the Adelaide Crows on Mother’s Day at Skoda Stadium.
Many media commentators from inside and outside the AFL community have been whipping the GWS Giants, largely to do with the controversial post-match comments made by GWS coach Kevin Sheedy.
While the record low crowd for a GWS home game of 5,830 on Sunday was given wide publicity from the media at first, considering it was the worst AFL crowd since the Fitzroy era, social media picked up on comments made by Kevin Sheedy in his post-match address to the media.
Just in case you were not aware of what was said, Sheedy made a comparison to the challenges facing the GWS Giants growing the game in Western Sydney in comparison to the A-League’s Western Sydney Wanderers by saying that “we don’t have the recruiting officer called the Immigration Department recruiting fans for the West Sydney Wanderers”.
Although Sheedy has attempted to provide context to his initial comments, football personalities such as SBS’s Football Analyst Craig Foster and Wellington Phoenix’s captain Andrew Durante reactions to Sheedy’s comments summarise the anger that has been demonstrated by the wider football community on social media outlets.
Foster was particularly venomous in his attack on Sheedy by saying his comments “were a disgrace to this country” and suggested to Sheedy that “maybe it’s time you got on a boat, and take your ignorance with you”. Durante labelled Sheedy a “muppet” for his comments and questioned whether GWS would draw even 4,000 to its next home game against the West Coast Eagles.
Since the reaction, Sheedy has fronted up to the media once again to defend himself by saying that “it’s a throwaway line to make sure that everyone understands that is why soccer can get such a quick crowd”.
He continued to reiterate the significant challenge that GWS has ahead of itself of establishing a strong foothold in Western Sydney.
If anything has come out of the last 48 hours regarding the Giants, it is that they are in for a tough season, perhaps more than they would have even anticipated, on and off the field.
Next match for the Giants is against the red-hot Hawthorn at Aurora Stadium this Saturday and they will be making sure that they can minimise the damage that Hawthorn could potentially deliver to them, especially if the Hawks can muster anything similar to their first quarter efforts against the Sydney Swans last Saturday night.
Perhaps what is even more significant now is their next home game against the West Coast Eagles at Skoda Stadium on May 25. The Giants will be in overdrive trying to promote this game to the Western Sydney community after the disaster on and off the field on Mother’s Day.
Currently, the Giants are still very much in their infancy and they are desperate to establish a positive club culture that would for their sake, result in increasing popularity among the Western Sydney population, especially since these recent events.
While it can debated as to whether Sheedy’s comments were out of line or not, what has to be remembered is that if the Giants want to attract greater crowds to Skoda Stadium, then they need to be much more competitive than they were against Adelaide.
Ultimately, the events of the last 48 hours has just provided another reminder to GWS and AFL headquarters that they have significant challenges ahead of them if they want to succeed in Western Sydney.