Has Canberra completely missed the boat when it comes to having its own AFL team?

Tim Gavel 21 September 2021 50
GWS Giants v Port Adelaide game at Manuka Oval in April

Canberra tried in the past to base an AFL team in Canberra. GWS seems to be the best option at the moment. Photo: Supplied.

In the late 1980s to mid-1990s, the AFL for Canberra bid was all the rage with a tidal wave of momentum behind the campaign.

It had many believing that it might just happen. Remember, this was before the establishment of the Brumbies. Australian Rules had plenty of support alongside the Raiders and the Cannons.

Momentum was certainly with Australian Rules.

Led by the then ACT Chief Magistrate Ron Cahill, the AFL for Canberra bid had the backing of the ACT Government, with the then Chief Minister Rosemary Follett offering full and continuing support.

The main target appeared to be the financially troubled Fitzroy Football Club.

Fitzroy’s chief executive John Birt came to town amidst speculation that they were interested in playing some home games in Canberra.

I remember interviewing Birt and Cahill at the time and coming away feeling both parties were testing each other out without committing.

Fitzroy then played a home game at Bruce Stadium in round 9 in 1995 against the West Coast Eagles in front of a crowd of 12,000.

The following year it was announced that Fitzroy would be merging with the Brisbane Bears to become the Brisbane Lions.

Fitzroy played their final game in 1996 and the air had well and truly gone out of the Canberra bid.

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Twenty-six years down the track, I am not sure we are any wiser in finding out how close Fitzroy came to relocating to Canberra.

Part of the problem expressed by some in the Canberra bid team was the level of debt carried by Fitzroy at the time.

In their place, North Melbourne played a number of home games in Canberra. This arrangement was followed by the current one with Greater Western Sydney on a long-term deal to play at least three games a season at Manuka Oval.

Now with Tasmania well and truly in the box seat if the AFL is to expand, Canberra’s aspirations, if there were any remaining, have virtually disappeared.

Adding to Canberra’s plight, apart from a perceived lack of desire at the moment, is the emergence of a campaign from the Northern Territory to be ready if the AFL is looking to expand in the future.

It appears that Canberra’s arrangement with GWS is the best we can hope for, but who knows what the future will bring.

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50 Responses to Has Canberra completely missed the boat when it comes to having its own AFL team?
CanberraAFLTeam CanberraAFLTeam 9:19 pm 26 Sep 21

It doesn’t have to be either or with Tasmania.

The AFL always expands to even numbers. Tassie as a 19th team means a 20th team will follow shortly, which Canberrq makes the most sense for.

Sharon Cabban Sharon Cabban 10:25 pm 25 Sep 21

Lani Metcalfe future for Jack

Kathie Nash Kathie Nash 9:36 pm 25 Sep 21

Canberra will never get its own AFL team while we only have a 'stadium' that holds 13,000 at maximum. Need a bigger stadium to support more fans to attend. Gave up trying to go to games at Manuka as it was always sold out. And no, I don't follow GWS or Sydney.

Olaf Moon Olaf Moon 5:45 pm 25 Sep 21

Tasmania First, NT second

Louise Earl Louise Earl 12:03 am 25 Sep 21

I love Canberra … but yes.. Canberra has missed the boat on a lot over a lot of years! Not just AFL.

Tim Rozitis Tim Rozitis 7:05 pm 24 Sep 21

no. Too much population movement. There's enough expats from footy regions here at any time, but a lot of them are transient. Someone posted to Canberra from SA will already have a side to follow (and they might not be here long enough to switch allegiances). More strategic marketing from the Giants to bring different sides here (maybe an extra couple games); play an occasional nearby country game etc is all that's needed. I don't think Canberra can sustain support for its own side at 11 home games a year (TBH I have serious doubt that Tas can either)

Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:57 pm 24 Sep 21

“It’s good tourism revenue”

Do you have proof of that?

Michael Bourke Michael Bourke 4:49 pm 24 Sep 21

No. Stick to guest games at Manuka Oval for GWS. It's good tourism revenue

    Matt Bacher Matt Bacher 7:56 pm 24 Sep 21

    Michael Bourke …..as you and I can attest to mate 🤣

    Josh Ongley Josh Ongley 8:56 am 25 Sep 21

    Michael Bourke no they will become home games

Shane Bennett Shane Bennett 1:15 pm 24 Sep 21

Who cares? Most canberrans want to go for teams from Sydney or Melbourne anyway. Hell, the city wants to be Sydney or Melbourne.

    Julian Hayes Julian Hayes 4:38 pm 24 Sep 21

    Shane Bennett lol righteo guns and freedom lol

    Shane Bennett Shane Bennett 10:39 am 25 Sep 21

    Julian Hayes yeah? And?

    Sandra Anderson Sandra Anderson 11:38 am 25 Sep 21

    Shane Bennett I am sorry but the last place I want to “be” is Sydney or Melbourne!

    Shane Bennett Shane Bennett 12:24 pm 25 Sep 21

    Sandra Anderson I didn't say "all".

Jay Annabel Jay Annabel 10:20 pm 23 Sep 21

Tassie first. It's how it should be.

    Josh Ongley Josh Ongley 8:52 am 25 Sep 21

    Jay Annabel oh right , so they should get to go before the capital city of the country should they. 😂😂😂

Steven Cox Steven Cox 6:47 pm 23 Sep 21

So the VFL grew up and became AFL. True to its beginnings it has remained mainly a southern league (75% of the teams are from southern states). It will truly become an Australian League when the number of teams reflect the population spread. An ACT team would help this. The question is whether the AFL board would want this or even accept it. Or are they still in the VFL mindset.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 3:45 pm 24 Sep 21

    It’s all about where you grew up. I was raised in central west NSW and “Australian Rules” and soccer were unknown. Rugby League ruled with Rugby Union being there for the graziers and GPS lads. I only participated in one game of Aussie Rules when I was in National Service with a lot of lads from Wagga and Albury and it left me very confused.

    Canberra has a lot of people who were raised interstate where it was played solely and that’s why it has some popularity here but like Rugby League, the local team isn’t always the one that is supported.

Greg Frewin Greg Frewin 6:39 pm 23 Sep 21

Overlooked for a reason canberra people only rock up when they are winning! Look at the history of the Raiders & Brumbies! only the diehard sports fans will attend! When the win you struggle for a ticket!

    Josh Ongley Josh Ongley 8:51 am 25 Sep 21

    Greg Frewin all we have to do is invent a clap or a song that lasts 30 seconds before the game and that’s all you need

Gary Ryan Gary Ryan 5:20 pm 23 Sep 21

Screw GWS, the jersey looks like they work for a budget airline. Canberra should have it's own AFL team, not some third rate occasional visitor.

John Moulis John Moulis 3:12 pm 23 Sep 21

I don’t think it will happen. In Melbourne, Canberra is now regarded as “a rugby town” and the feeling is that there will be not enough people to sustain a standalone Canberra team.

Andrew Wadey Andrew Wadey 10:43 am 23 Sep 21

Same thing in so many sports, like A-League who keep stringing supporters along and then find some justification to do whatever they were going to anyway time and time again. Don't know if its just the inconsistency of supporters showing up to games in the past, or what it is, but it always seems that Canberra are the last to be let in... :(

Rollersk8r1 Rollersk8r1 7:38 am 23 Sep 21

Quite happy as a GWS member. In normal times it’s an ideal arrangement. Four games a year at Manuka (1 pre-season), plus AFLW games, plus a couple of trips up to Sydney each season. Although at this point the 10 year deal for games in Canberra has expired. And thanks to COVID there’s been 3 games in 2 years, when there should’ve been at least 7.

Ben Jones Ben Jones 6:05 am 23 Sep 21

No one will go apart from the die hard fans. Until they start winning and the whole of the ACT become fans overnight.

    Martin McMaster Martin McMaster 10:37 am 23 Sep 21

    Who needs to start winning?

    Sean Chamberlain Sean Chamberlain 2:19 pm 23 Sep 21

    Ben Jones true, we had an NBL team till they started losing.

    Ben Jones Ben Jones 3:04 pm 23 Sep 21

    Sean Chamberlain I had season tickets to them. My KIds would love a NBL team to cheer for.

    Sean Chamberlain Sean Chamberlain 3:05 pm 23 Sep 21

    Ben Jones yeah I used to love seeing the Cannons play with Phil Smyth (I think) and was it Leroy Loggins

    Ben Jones Ben Jones 3:09 pm 23 Sep 21

    Sean Chamberlain Leroy .. no no no.

    Herb McEachin.

    Judith Herald Judith Herald 3:37 pm 24 Sep 21

    Sean Chamberlain the heyday of sports in Canberra was the year a Canberra team won both the NBL and the NSWRL. Early 1990s

    Sean Chamberlain Sean Chamberlain 4:12 pm 24 Sep 21

    Judith Herald I actually remember having many of the raiders coming to my school, Gary Belcher, Mal Maninger, Chicka Fergerson, Brad Clyde and they did football coaching for us at Taylor Primary

    Judith Herald Judith Herald 6:53 pm 24 Sep 21

    Sean Chamberlain Chicka Fergerson was a sparky by trade, saw him quite a few times after he retired doing electrical works at my high school

Louellyn Violet Louellyn Violet 6:50 pm 22 Sep 21

Hey, I’m a very happy GWS supporter, they have been taken in by ACT AFL supporters as their team, or second team

    Marty Cusch Marty Cusch 3:51 pm 23 Sep 21

    Louellyn Violet nope, not at all!!

    Tim Rozitis Tim Rozitis 7:14 pm 24 Sep 21

    Louellyn Violet sort of agree. I'm an expat Adelaidean who has only ever supported Melbourne (from before Cows existed). My kids are split among multiple sides including (*shudder*) Port. But my eldest son has become stuck on the Giants - in part because his first ever "game" was Auskick at Manuka in the halftime (and he got to hold hands with a Giants player as they returned to the field after half time). He still likes Port (he was REALLY looking forward to the Giants vs Power game that got moved), but ultimately supports Giants (helped on by freebies at the games we've made it to). As a result, I find myself supporting GWS (except against the Dees)....

    And I suspect many expats from elsewhere are the same - they have their own team already, but are happy to adopt GWS as a pseudo "second side"

    Josh Ongley Josh Ongley 8:47 am 25 Sep 21

    Louellyn Violet um no they haven’t

Timothy McAulay Timothy McAulay 2:29 pm 22 Sep 21

It will happen. But tassie will get a team first

Craig Sutton Craig Sutton 2:23 pm 22 Sep 21

I think GWS should play more games in Canberra. I don’t think we’re big enough to cover our own AFL in its own right.

Tassie and northern Australia should be the priory for the AFL.

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