Adding to the Giants’ Mythos – the Adelaide First Qualifying Final

As the dust settles on another season, the narratives play out. We see Melbourne with long, wrenching finals droughts continue.  The continuing drama continues at Collingwood.  The start of a Richmond “fairytale” generates its heat amongst their long- suffering supporters. The clubs with an existing mythos continue to build on theirs.  This week, however, saw the publication of an excellent piece by Courtney Walsh in The Australian that outlined the moments where the Giants have gathered a mythos, a story that connects them to the community developing around the club.

When I was reading the piece, I had the shock of recognition when I read this quote from Jonny Patton –

“when I first got up here, we went to a school and there were kids that didn’t even know what AFL was,”

I know, because that was my school.  In 2011, I was teaching at a school west of Liverpool.   The visit only happened because I met Kevin Sheedy at a foundation member event, mentioned I was a teacher. He then told me to give my name to CEO Dave Matthews. Next thing, the club contacted me, saying they had arranged for Patton and Tom Bugg to come to my school.   It was a surprise.  And so they came – they talked in front of a couple of year groups, presented prizes to our AFL representative side, who had won our region’s inaugural inter-school competition.  Indeed, many of the gathered students had no idea who they were, what AFL was.  It struck me at the time the impact that a No. 1 Draft Pick would have in a Victorian school.  But at my school?  Not so much.

After that visit, however, there was more and more recognition of the code amongst the students at the school. As the Giants received more coverage in the media, students would come to me and link the club to the two players who came. Especially to Patton. He was memorable.

Stories like these are important to tell about the emergence of the Giants. Until now, the main narrative that is told is that of the “expansion franchise”, lacking a mythos and a yarn, existing as the villain of the AFL – a club without a heart or a story there to be defeated.   Yet this is a club that has strived to spread the word of the code inside those areas where it was unknown. The players the proselytisers of its worth and qualities. And a great job they have done.  The narrative of the Giants being a “pretend team” is not contradicted all that much – not much point when there’s historically been little sustained Sydney media interest in the progress of the club and it serves Victorian media well when it plays to that narrative for their audiences.   This is why Walsh’s piece stands out.

One element that also rings true from the Walsh piece is that the story is often told about the gifting of draft picks and top young talent to the Giants, and the success is often represented these days as inevitable. Yet when we see the calamitous situation with the Gold Coast Suns, that is large leap of logic to make.  It was also not inevitable in those very early days when the supposed Blacktown base for the Giants turned out to be an illusion, a shared facility with cricket, forcing the club to be nomads, doing weights at Rooty Hill RSL, training at Gipps Rd oval in Greystanes (where I remember watching a very early training session).   It was worse for the club than the Suns’ famed demountable training centre. At least they were next to their home ground.

That’s why the incredible fortune of finding an HQ site at a golf driving range that had seen better days can be seen as one of the saving moments for the Giants. It’s all very well to recruit young players from around the country, but if they are forced to go on buses around the vast area of western Sydney, instead of trotting to and from the Westpac Centre, why stay at the Giants? And forget about attracting the bigger names from other clubs.  This was pure luck, a fortunate occurrence, especially considering that the Sydney Swans, in contrast, are yet to have found a suitable place for an HQ, 35 years since their move to Sydney.

These are the moments where a club mythos is born. Of the Not Knowing. Of education.  Of pioneering into new territory. Of a nomadic club searching for a home, both physical and spiritual. Of a set of supporters slowly swirling together to form a critical mass to get behind a club.

On Thursday night, another chapter of that mythos will be born.  There can’t be many Giants supporters at the ground – if we have a job in Sydney, getting two days off on short notice is difficult, travelling expensive.  The people who are going are showing the kind of support that we usually see attached to the bigger, older clubs.  The rest of us will need to gather behind televisions, hoping against all data and history that the team can overcome the odds. That is also why the story is bigger than whether Stevie J can get another nostalgia-driven tilt at a final series. The Giants need to show grit and force of a type we saw in their Perth game against West Coast. And whether it’s a win or a loss, the first interstate final will be something to place in the emerging history of an emerging club.


About Mark O'Sullivan

A teacher, musician and GWS Giants Foundation Member

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