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According to all the major news organisations, a battle is about to begin in the Western Suburbs of Sydney.

A Lord of the Rings type battle, where one group of people peacefully ply their trade in the one location for hundreds of years, and another group of people from a faraway land desiring world domination attempt to take over.

Words such as “turf war” have been bandied around, and already many shots have been fired. No one’s been killed yet, but it’s anticipated that soon somebody will be.

It is that serious that grown men are warning their peaceful counterparts that a monster is arriving, it claims to be nice and friendly, but in actual fact it’s not. It’s a monster that wants to brainwash our children with smiley faces and destroy their futures.

This pretty much sums up the sensationalism created with the arrival of the GWS Giants. The AFL is here to take over and unless the NRL does something then one hundred years of tradition will be thrown out the window.

In some circles, the view is that the NRL mightn’t even bother to fight the AFL because it won’t win, the AFL is superior in every way.

Western Sydney is a very big area. It stretches out from Parramatta, to Penrith, down to Bankstown and even Campbelltown is regarded as a part of Western Sydney. I’ve lived in Parramatta my entire life and I’ve never even been to Campbelltown.

Approximately two million people live in this area, with many different cultures, religions and languages making up Western Sydney. It’s such a large area that the NRL boasts four fairly successful clubs: The Eels, Bulldogs, Tigers and Panthers.

Apart from St. George, the Eels, Bulldogs and Tigers probably generate the most interest in terms of crowds and viewership in Sydney across all codes, and the Panthers now have Phil Gould working away at his ‘mini revolution’ at the foot of the mountains.

The rivalry between the Eels and Bulldogs for example is huge; their clashes have for the last few years attracted crowds in excess of 30,000 and television audiences of 5-600,000. They even attracted 75,000 to a preliminary final a few years ago. 30,000 maybe nothing in comparison to AFL crowds but by Sydney standards are pretty decent.

The rivalry and tribalism between the four Western Sydney clubs is something the AFL will never have in Sydney, it just doesn’t have the numbers. Over time the GWS Giants will build a pretty decent rivalry with the Swans but it won’t match that of the four Western Sydney Rugby teams.

It’s also important to remember that Rugby League is not the same competition it was five to ten years ago. It’s grown significantly in crowds, membership and television ratings. It is aware of the fact that it needs to start doing more to continue its growth.

Will I be supporting the Giants? No. My club is the Sydney Swans and has been since mid-2005, when I saw the Swans beat the Bombers on a Saturday night and fell in love with Australian Rules football. Let’s not kid ourselves and think that people can’t follow both, I follow both almost equally.

But let’s not talk about the drawing up of battle lines and boundaries because if the AFL knew what was good for it, it doesn’t want to appear as a threat to Rugby League. We Western Sydneysiders are very parochial and tribal about our football clubs and anything that threatens them, we’ll turn against.

The Giants can carve out their own niche, because as I said, people can follow both codes. GWS has two very good coaches in Kevin Sheedy and his trusty sidekick Mark Williams who have five premierships and nine grand finals between them.

Their team includes Graeme Allen, Stephen Silvagni and good facilities. The AFL has given them every opportunity to connect with the community and grow its brand.

The clubs choice of using Blacktown as its training venue is an interesting one. If any GWS player reads this article please don’t ever walk around Blacktown after eight o’clock. I think after a few weeks of training there you’ll understand why.

GWS has a boutique sized stadium at Homebush, Skoda Stadium (The Sydney Showground) which is a fantastic ground. However Homebush is an hour away for those living in Penrith, and it’s not going to be easy enticing people from out there. Sydney is notoriously difficult to get around, no matter what part of the city you live in.

The poaching of Israel Folau is an interesting one. I understood the Suns going after Karmichael Hunt, everybody in Queensland loved him. Hunt played for the Broncos and Queensland, and was very good at it.

Israel Folau on the other hand isn’t the most popular figure in Western Sydney; he’s caused us too much heartache to love him. Folau played for the Melbourne Storm, Brisbane and Queensland…No one likes them out in the suburbs!

It isn’t like I’m hoping that the Giants fail, in fact I hope they do well!

But let’s be realistic and understand that the paranoia from Rugby League circles is unnecessary and the chest beating from certain sections of the AFL is also unnecessary.

For example, when Phil Gould described the AFL as a monster that was working towards generational change attempting to wipe out Rugby League, I wondered if Phil had any confidence in the Rugby League game itself? It is an amazing game that creates many highlights across many platforms.

Consider players such as Ben Barba, Jarryd Hayne and Benji Marshall. Haven’t they excited many a Western Sydney crowd?

On the other side of debate, I remember when Dermott Brereton said that the NRL can’t take on the AFL and win because the AFL was too well-resourced. I thought Dermott clearly has no idea what the Western Sydney sporting culture is based on and is ignorant of what Rugby League has already built in Western Sydney.

The Giants will struggle at times and succeed at others. There’ll be a full house when they play the Bombers at Skoda for the first time, but when they play Port Adelaide or North Melbourne the crowds will drop. No need to death-ride the club when its down and say that its failed, and no need to talk it up and say that the AFL is taking over in Western Sydney when it attracts a decent crowd.

I thought Tim Sheens summed it up beautifully when he talked about the fact that the Tigers and Swans won premierships in the same year. The attention and focus both clubs received was huge and because one was successful, it didn’t detract from the success of the other.

So go the Swans and go The Eels!

Let’s get the footy back, no matter where it’s played and no matter who plays.

As long as we’ve got the footy.

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The Crowd Says (125)

  • March 1st 2012 @ 7:41am
    Sam el Perro said | March 1st 2012 @ 7:41am | ! Report

    “Over time the GWS Giants will build a pretty decent rivalry with the Swans but it won’t match that of the four Western Sydney Rugby teams.”

    Parramatta Two Blues, Penrith Emus… Who are the other two teams?

  • Roar Guru

    March 1st 2012 @ 7:51am
    mds1970 said | March 1st 2012 @ 7:51am | ! Report

    Of course all codes can, and do, co-exist.

    But code war articles sell newspapers and get hits to sport sites. So of course there’ll be more code war articles.

    • March 1st 2012 @ 1:58pm
      JVGO said | March 1st 2012 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

      Some codes get bigger like the AFL, some go broke like the NBL, some have clubs who go broke like the A-League where a clubs licence has been removed after one season of competition from AFL in its region, some codes desperately cling to a futile dream of domination like RU. Some sports watch their participation rates decline like cricket.

  • March 1st 2012 @ 8:07am
    Crosscoder said | March 1st 2012 @ 8:07am | ! Report

    They can co exist,but this(media stuff) has been going on for ages,with Folau constantly being plonked in front of our eyes on the box.just get on with it.It and his constant referencing is boring as bat’s ……
    .And for once I agree with Oikee,this being thrust into the rugby league section is out of kilter,in fact just another promotional effort for another sport.Keep it in that sport’s section.No further comment .

    • March 1st 2012 @ 9:05am
      Ian Whitchurch said | March 1st 2012 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      The things rugby league will have to do to match the challenge of the AFL are the things they should hace been doing anyway.

      Closer connenction to the fans by pushing football club memberships.

      Better development of young players, and clearer career path between 16 and 20.

      More effort on growing the game in the various communities.

      Balancing the needs of the code with the needs of the club.

      This was the boot up the arse rugby league needed, in short.

      • March 1st 2012 @ 11:45pm
        Queensland's game is rugby league said | March 1st 2012 @ 11:45pm | ! Report

        “More effort on growing the game in the various communities.”

        Which is why a strong Queensland Cup and NSW Cup is a necessity. If the state competitions are profitable then the money made from them can go towards the local clubs and junior development.

        Local clubs could help convert children to the game by holding clinics for schoolchildren. A bloke who is only earning a pittance in the Queensland Cup and NSW Cup would be willing to participate in these programs if there was a financial reward attached to it.

        • March 2nd 2012 @ 8:19am
          Ian Whitchurch said | March 2nd 2012 @ 8:19am | ! Report


          Absolutely. I’d also be linking the Qld and NSW Cup to the NRL by playing the reserves sides of the NRL clubs in them – the model is the NEAFL, rather than ‘affiliated clubs’ that see players played out of position and what not.

          Padding out clinic staff with local comp players is workable, but I think you’d need the players the kids see on television to get the excitement factor going.

          The problem is, as always, money. Money that goes the the lower layers of the code isnt making NRL club executives lives easier by coming as a lump sum to help with player payments and so on, and so they are more likely to be demanding it goes to them so they can “avoid losing players to competing codes”, and so on.

    • March 1st 2012 @ 10:38am
      me, I like football said | March 1st 2012 @ 10:38am | ! Report

      I too don’t understand why this is in the RL section. Perhaps The Roar think they can generate a gretaer response here.

  • Roar Guru

    March 1st 2012 @ 8:17am
    The Cattery said | March 1st 2012 @ 8:17am | ! Report

    There is room for all of us. We can all get on.

  • March 1st 2012 @ 8:42am
    Australian Rules said | March 1st 2012 @ 8:42am | ! Report

    The most sensible “code” article written in months on this site.

    I’ve said ad nauseum…the Storm enriched Melbourne, just as the Roar did in Brisbane, the Jets in Newcastle, Suns & Titans on the GC, the Force in Perth, the Cowboys in Towny…more sport makes those towns better places to live. Not an AFL thing…a sport thing.

    Cue the ridiculous and defensive comments from Oikee and CC…completely missed the point of the article.

    • March 1st 2012 @ 8:53am
      Antonio said | March 1st 2012 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      except for Fold Coast United

    • March 1st 2012 @ 12:25pm
      oikee said | March 1st 2012 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

      No we have not missed the point. Yesterday AFL put up a post on the rugby union site, today you have one on our site.
      Our code starts tonite and already even before a ball is kicked we have to deal with cross-code debuts which end in code war. I am asking the moderators for enough is enough. All i want to talk about this year is rugby league, League,
      Even if we were dying or going under, i am prepared to die with the ship on this one.
      This is the Titanic, not the Concordia.

  • March 1st 2012 @ 9:32am
    Crosscoder said | March 1st 2012 @ 9:32am | ! Report

    Cue the expected one.
    Defensive? Now you wouldn’t be defensive with your response.!

    I have stated all codes should co exist,yet we are continually having the same old thing rammed own our throats,on a rl board.We have admiited all codes can co exist ad infinitum ,we agreed .let it rest.
    Can’t imagine a thread similarly done when the Reds come in on the AFL section.

    • March 1st 2012 @ 10:40am
      Nathan of Perth said | March 1st 2012 @ 10:40am | ! Report

      Well I don’t know if we’ll see an article like that or not, but I sure would like to find out! (hint hint, nudge nudge, Independent Commission)

      • March 1st 2012 @ 11:50am
        Crosscoder said | March 1st 2012 @ 11:50am | ! Report

        Nathan of Perth
        All we want the I.C to do ,is to grow the game,measuredly,calculatingly and always with the game and the community involved being utmost in their minds.No bombast,no arrogance ,no poaching high profile players to use for marketing purposes,thus no antagonism.

        The I.C. for the code,is a new innovation,the we co exist stories have been done to death.
        What other codes do,it is out of rugby league’s control.I will watch other codes’ major events’ ,

        • March 1st 2012 @ 12:11pm
          Nathan of Perth said | March 1st 2012 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

          I don’t care if they come into Perth with Gallop carried by porters at the head of a brass marching band or if they deliver the news with hidden notes left by a bevy of imported ninja, I just want the IC to hurry up and decide on the expansion issue already!

          • March 1st 2012 @ 12:27pm
            Crosscoder said | March 1st 2012 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

            Nathan of Perth
            July melad ,July.You cannot contemplate expansion ,if you do not know the final washout of the Tv deal.Why? Priorities.Financial stability of current clubs.Grassroots.Then expansion.
            I think it is fair to say no expansion in 2013,doubtful 2014,certainty 2015.

            The announcement will be done tastefully.Kim Kardashian and Hugh Hefner with their ensembles providing the entertainment(and I use teh term advisedly).Gallop just tthe formalities.

            • March 1st 2012 @ 12:31pm
              Nathan of Perth said | March 1st 2012 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

              Well, alright, but if its anything past September I’ll expect Kate Upton to be part of the announcements. 🙂

            • March 2nd 2012 @ 8:07am
              Crosscoder said | March 2nd 2012 @ 8:07am | ! Report

              Nathan of perth
              Kate Ellis more likely.

            • March 2nd 2012 @ 12:27pm
              Nathan of Perth said | March 2nd 2012 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

              I can live with that. Far better conversationalist for that matter.

    • March 1st 2012 @ 10:58am
      Australian Rules said | March 1st 2012 @ 10:58am | ! Report

      CC, I was referring to Oikees comments (which have been taken down) which talked about “this is war” and “mess with us and you mess with the whole family”, “stay off our RL board” and other such dross. Other’s seem to be wading in below. Agree…yawn.

      • March 1st 2012 @ 11:53am
        Crosscoder said | March 1st 2012 @ 11:53am | ! Report

        You cited me as an example AR,I can do nothing but respond in my defense.
        My position is unequivocal,lets get on with the games,all codes have to live with competition.And I sincerely want that borne in mind should Perth be included in heh next expansion phase of the NRL.

      • March 1st 2012 @ 12:16pm
        oikee said | March 1st 2012 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

        Why cant aussie rules or anyone wishing to write a story about aussie rules, just write the story on their own site under aussie rules. League fans just want to talk about our game, Come on, we have had 5 years of this and they remove my posts.
        Wonder if Clive Palmer had as much trouble as i am here on a rugby league blog, trying to talk about our own game and having posts removed.

        • March 1st 2012 @ 12:42pm
          Albert said | March 1st 2012 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

          Okiee. I think you’ve missed the point of the article. The author’s merely commenting on the strength of rugby league is western sydney, and how the AFL won’t be overtaking anytime soon. That’s what I got from it.

          • March 1st 2012 @ 2:20pm
            JVGO said | March 1st 2012 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

            Very interesting propietary attitude displayed here Australian Rules. Love your work. The author of this exemplary article is actually one Tony Roll. The fact that it contains nothing but empty motherhood statements no doubt pleases all the mothers down south.

            • March 1st 2012 @ 2:41pm
              Nathan of Perth said | March 1st 2012 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

              Anyone named Tony Roll who is not a Holy Roller is a wasted opportunity.

            • March 1st 2012 @ 2:45pm
              Pete75 said | March 1st 2012 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

              He’s hot!

            • March 1st 2012 @ 2:52pm
              Nathan of Perth said | March 1st 2012 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

              Is he Italian … Herb & Cheese?

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