In light of the important role played by the local community in the success of the Wanderers, it’s hard not to wince a little when Andrew Demetriou talks about GWS “building a culture and connecting with the community”.
The importance of western Sydney to the future of the game was highlighted in 2008 when the presidents of all AFL clubs – some without a premiership for close to half a century – agreed to the formation of a club that would later become the Giants.
A club whose success would not only be guaranteed but fast tracked as well.
A slightly cold corporate entity with a focus on catchment areas and AFL footprints, its talk about embracing the region of outer western Sydney rang a little hollow last year when it decided to leave the under resourced Blacktown International Sportspark for the Olympic precinct 20 kilometres to the east.
Its players have never resided in the region, bunking down instead in the inner west apartments of Breakfast Point.
The AFL is going to make sure GWS is a dominant force and that will not bring it the respect from the competition that I’m sure it desires.
For what other club would the AFL chief executive dare make the following prediction and show such favouritism?
“They are going to win a lot of football games at some point in time, this club. And I’ll be there supporting them and jumping on the bandwagon when they do!”
At the ceremony to announce construction of the new training, administrative and community centre jointly funded by the Federal Government, Demetriou spoke of it being another step in the journey, the next chapter in the story, of the Giants building their own culture and links to western Sydney.
Unfortunately, the impression was that the AFL is trying to buy those things.
Entering foreign territory the AFL was always going to have to buy itself in to some extent, of course.
Converting or winning over a sizeable portion of western Sydney’s youth may depend entirely on the Giants winning a premiership, and the Wanderers’ sudden rise – which may have prompted Demetriou’s cheerleading for GWS – has meant rugby league is not the only serious barrier.
But when the $85 million committed until 2016 is all spent and the salary cap allowances are gone you’d hope the team would want to stand on its own feet and be successful.
The club will be given more respect if they succeed despite things not going according to the AFL’s plan.
For example, if they lose a number of their gun recruits due to homesickness or lack of achievement and are forced to develop less fancied youngsters or to discover a few mature age gems, as many teams are now doing.
Or better still, steal a boy from a celebrated rugby league (or Wanderers!) household and make him a star, as the Swans have done with Keiren Jack.
There has not been much resentment yet towards this team brimming with the country’s best young talent.
They were always going to win the wooden spoon in their first year, especially when experienced out of contract players refused to move to Sydney and finish their careers in an uncompetitive team, and no one really enjoys beating up on a bunch of skinny (if precociously skilled) kids.
In fact, they attracted accolades – even affection – for their hardness at the ball and unwillingness to give in.
They may be ready to morph into superstars over the next few years and be part of an Andrew Demetriou sponsored juggernaut but not even the unassisted Bulldogs in their 59th year of a premiership drought could hate them in their present guise.
In a comment obviously directed towards his moneyed crosstown rival Sydney FC, but most likely at the AFL also, the Wanderers executive chairman Lyall Gorman noted: “Other sporting clubs can represent a pocket, but not truly represent.”
Perhaps in response to that dig – although we can’t be sure – Demetriou appeared to question the quality of a competition where an under-resourced first year club can win a title, by stating several times on Monday that the AFL “is a really hard competition”.
He’s right, it is an extremely hard competition and let’s hope that if the Giants do win a premiership – and I hope they do – that they do it the hard way.