14 July 2023

Is it time for the AFL to consider relocating GWS to Canberra?

| Tim Gavel
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GWS Giants at Manuka Oval.

GWS Giants at Manuka Oval. Photo: File.

Last Saturday, at the Sydney Showground Stadium, GWS defeated Hawthorn by 13 points to keep its finals hopes alive.

While the win was significant, it wasn’t the most impactful moment of the night.

The fact that a touch more than 9000 fans turned out to watch the Giants take on one of the biggest clubs in the league, albeit struggling for form this season, should be cause for concern.

GWS has battled to get more than 10,000 to its home games in Sydney this season. This is a paltry figure when compared to the Swans or other clubs in AFL’s heartland.

Canberra GWS Giants.

Canberra GWS Giants. Photo: File.

When the Giants played Adelaide in Sydney, the crowd figure ticked just over 8000. Against Fremantle, they drew 8633. Against Richmond 9723 watched on.

Among the biggest crowds for GWS home games this season have been at Manuka Oval with slightly more than 10,000 turning out for the match against the Western Bulldogs, and 10,500 fans for the game against the Brisbane Lions.

Their final home game in Canberra next weekend sees the Giants taking on the Gold Coast Suns at Manuka.

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If GWS gets a bigger crowd at Manuka for a game against the Suns than it did against Hawthorn in Sydney, surely this should act as a trigger for the AFL to consider Canberra as the Giants home base.

Already considerable work has been done by the Giants to develop their supporter base in Canberra, including the drafting of locally produced players.

And the financial investment from the ACT Government has not been insignificant.

By the time the current 10-year agreement finishes in 2032, the ACT Government would have invested $51.5 million in GWS.

Snow falls during the GWS/Hawks game at Manuka Oval.

Who could forget: GWS and the Hawks at Manuka Oval as the snow falls during Round 21, 2019. Photo: Supplied.

This includes $23 million for the first 10-year deal and now $28.5 million for the second 10-year period.

The new contract involves playing AFLW games in Canberra and three AFL premiership clashes, with the potential for a men’s pre-season match.

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If this deal had been on offer when Fitzroy courted the ACT back in the mid-90s, there’s a fair chance the Lions might have ended up in Canberra rather than Queensland.

Part of the deal between the Giants and the ACT Government not only sees AFL men’s and women’s games, but also the CBR logo on players’ jumpers, the promotion of Canberra as a tourism venue, and the development of the code in the ACT.

The GWS becoming a truly Canberra team appears on the surface to be a logical step.

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The point here is football (NRL and AFL) played in the vicinity of the sydney show grounds area is a big turn off, its hard, time consuming and messy getting there and then the return home journey is tricky and can be dangerous. Crowds to NRLs West’s and Bulldogs in the western area aren’t exactly brilliant – slighty more than the Giants. I’ve been there a few times and never again – only because it’s a pain getting there.

GrumpyGrandpa7:56 pm 15 Jul 23

The non-traditional AFL cities, like Sydney and Gold Coast have trouble supporting more than one team. (I’m including Gold Coast as being part of Brisbane, due to its proximity), so relocating GWS to Canberra could be a good option.

Canberra supports a wide range of “football” varieties, but there is no doubt that there is a significant interest in AFL, albeit that GWS isn’t most people favourite team. But playing here every second week, would grow their support, as a 1st preference team. It’s a bit like the Raiders. It takes time to develop that home brand loyalty.

It’d probably take 10 years of GWS being a permanent Canberra only team, to grow their brand, but having a local side would certainly be a boost for the local talent and in those in the surrounding areas.

I’m not a GWS supporter, but I think it’d be great.

Fine as long as they don’t trash the heritage listed Manuka Oval. Some of us won’t easily forget the unsolicited proposal GWS made to build a massive wall of units around the oval! Definitely replace the awful toilets and food stands. And please help the Services Club do something with the community facility that is their burnt down club site – the area is crying out for a place the community can use for meetings etc.

brucewantstobecool11:22 pm 15 Jul 23

So please upgrade the stadium, but at the same time don’t upgrade the stadium?

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