Giant Hearts

Giant Hearts

By Cheryl Critchley

 

When Kath Dell’Orefice attended her first Greater Western Sydney game, she had only been to one AFL match in her life. Encouraged by husband Seb, who grew up in Melbourne following Essendon, she was instantly smitten.

 

Kath is now Giants Cheer Squad president and Seb is banner manager. They attend almost every GWS game in Sydney and around Australia. “He just started to take me to games and I fell in love,” Kath says. “We follow the Giants all around the country.”

 

Fans at Giants games can’t miss this pair, who have five children between them. Seb’s hair is dyed bright orange and Kath wears an orange outfit with orange ribbons through her plaits and orange eye shadow. “I always have the same look,” she explained at half time of the Giants-Richmond game at Spotless Stadium on the weekend.

 

Liam Gardner, 14, had his face boldly painted as well as wearing his heart on his orange sleeve. “I grew up with NRL and then a couple of years ago I switched to the AFL and started to play,” he said. “It felt like the easiest thing to do and it kind of felt good.”

 

Liam and the likes of Gregg Ian, who has also jumped on board and paints his face for games, are the new face of footy in western Sydney. They follow their team, make the banner and sell raffle tickets during the game. Vice President and secretary, David Redden, sold tickets at half time at $2 or three for $5 to win a Giants jumper signed by Kevin Sheedy. David is so dedicated he already insists that the initial squad of about 95 is already rusted on for life.

 

Damian Smith joined with son Malachi, 10, after attending Auskick. “I got into it because he was playing Auskick,” Damian said. “He got me into it through school.” Scott Rau hails from Albury, where he grew up with Aussie Rules, while Ben Squire used to be in the Hawthorn Cheer Squad.

 

The first time the Giants Cheer Squad made a banner, it took about seven hours. They can now turn one out in 2.5-3. The standard is very good and comparable to several more established groups.

While it is still small, with just 95 members, the GWS squad hopes to recruit more “Orange people” with free membership and the chance to socialise and help make banners.

 

Their team may have lost to Richmond by a whopping 113 points, but these giant killing fans are not going anywhere. They have already had a few good wins, with the best coming in Round 1 against the Swans. “That’s what we needed,” Damian says. “We couldn’t hear them (Swans fans) over us.”

 

Anyone who’d like to join should email giants.cheer.squad@gmail.com.

 

Comments

  1. Rick Kane says:

    Lovely piece, Cheryl. Footy brings people together in the strangest ways and in the strangest places. Let the Giants Cheer Squad be part of the glue the team desperately needs to stick them solid to the community they’re playing for. Cheers

  2. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Thanks Rick. They are a lovely bunch and already “rusted on” supporters which is great. Hopefully they’ll have plenty to cheer in years to come – as long as it’s not against Richmond :-)

  3. Peter Cresswell says:

    ‘ “I got into it because he was playing Auskick,” Damian said. ‘. Interesting how in non-AFL country, where you only rarely see the game on the box, that has seemed to be a successful strategy. Here in NZ it’s called Kiwikick, and a good number of Kiwikick parents were filling the stands for the Saints-Lions game in Wellington back on Anzac Day.
    So as a way to promote the game in non-footy country, the programme seems to be money well spent.

  4. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Hi Peter, Auskick is also fairly cost-effective so an inexpensive way of getting people involved. My brother has moved to Sydney and his son is doing Auskick and loves it. If not for that, he would probably have little opportunity to play Aussie Rules.

  5. Michael Shillito says:

    Thanks Cheryl. You must be the lady in the Richmond scarf who was chatting with Kath & Seb at half time. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to say hello when you chatted with some of the other cheer squad people.
    While our numbers are still modest by AFL standards, and it’s not easy getting any sort of atmosphere going when we’re getting thrashed; we’re having a red hot go at building up support for our game in Sydney’s west.
    It’s a unique opportunity we’ve been given to be part of a club as it grows from scratch; and an enjoyable one despite shockers like last Saturday – and with some great people.

    Thanks again for the article, and congratulations to your Tigers.

  6. Cheryl Critchley says:

    Thanks Michael – yep that was me in the Richmond scarf!! You should have come to say hi. I really enjoyed the day and the people were really friendly. Of course I enjoyed it more because my team won but there were lots of genuine footy fans there which was great. Keep up the good barracking and I hope you get a few more wins this year!

  7. Hilarious article. GWS are as popular as cancer. The people of Western Sydney have a team to support – the Western Sydney Wanderers.

    When the AFL packs up and moves to Canberra permanently these ‘fans’ will really be tested.

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