A few days out from the AFL Grand Final you’d think all the attention would be on the game, right? Wrong, following GWS chief executive Dale Holmes slip-up where he revealed a club request to see the Giants face city-rivals Sydney Swans in a stand-alone Round One fixture up against the NRL’s opening weekend of games in 2012.
Let’s make it clear, this isn’t official at this stage. The AFL are yet to ratify it.
Let’s also make it clear that it is GWS’s request rather than the AFL’s idea.
It’s a bold move for the Giants to be so open about this, as they try to break into the western Sydney market.
The plan is almost a declaration of war against their rival code, as they try to land the first blow.
The 2012 AFL season was expected to begin on the final weekend of March, a week after the NRL. Some may argue that week’s advantage would give the NRL the upper-hand in the region. That’s debatable although the Swans’ crowds have traditionally started off slowly.
GWS’s request would see them play on March 24 against the Swans in a stand-alone fixture sure to garner maximum attention, before the rest of the competition kick off a week later.
It would be a first for the AFL to stagger the start of the season in such a fashion.
But once again, the AFL hasn’t confirmed this and, in my opinion, won’t go ahead with this as its doomed as a bad idea.
Firstly, as we saw with the Gold Coast Suns this season, it’s going to be very, very difficult for the new club to be competitive in their opening year, let alone their first game. A 100-plus-points Giants defeat in their glamour opening round fixture wouldn’t be a good look for the AFL. Quite the contrary really.
As well, the Giants’ debut game should already have plenty of hype and an element of novelty about it, ensuring it will garner plenty of attention whenever its played and whoever its played against.
The Sydney derby when the Giants take on the Swans for the first time, will also naturally grab plenty of attention, so why waste that in Round One?
Those two matches represent the potential for two blockbusters for GWS and they’ll need everyone of them as they try to find their place in their tough market.
Indeed, the AFL saved the Queensland derby until Round 7 this year, whilst scheduling a big-drawing Victorian club, Carlton, for Gold Coast’s debut game. You fancy they’ll take a similar tack with the Giants.
As well, the idea of taking on the NRL’s Round One is surely a divisive proposal, as in many ways it signals a code war. It has the potential to alienate league fans in the region who may have flirted with the idea of supporting the Giants.
In this context, the Giants request is curious. The question to be asked, is why they feel they need to make a big impact in Round One?
The Swans’ history of slow early-season crowds could have something to do with it, along with the fact they will want to make people aware of them in the region as soon as possible, thus opted to start with a bang.
But do they need to start the season with a bang, or can they build it up slowly? It’s probably a question for the people of the region.
GWS CEO Dale Holmes, though, has made it clear the stand-alone fixture “is his preference”.
However, given both aforementioned sides of the argument for the stand-alone Round One game, it doesn’t seem the right path to go down.