AFL Round 15 – GWS Giants v Western Bulldogs: Come on Canberra!

The biggest question for all Manuka games is how many paying customers come. It’s more important than who wins because the survival of AFL in Canberra depends upon it.

Canberra taxpayers are watching because the ACT government signs the cheques for these games and before and after each one the dollars are counted against the attendance. In 2013 the equation was three games for an economic injection by footie tourists of $1.0 mil (approx) against the annual cost to the ACT government of $2.35 mil. Locals supporting the other codes grumble.

Manuka is representative of those regional venues with half-local teams, like Launceston, Hobart, and Darwin. They are mid-size cities, Canberra one of the largest at 370,000, incapable of hosting a team on a full-time basis. Their task of building local support and earning the necessary dollars is not helped because most of the visiting teams are either second tier Melbourne clubs or interstate clubs from Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane, who are far from home.

This year the Western Bulldogs followed St Kilda and the Gold Coast Suns to Manuka. None of them bring a huge supporter base to Canberra and this needs to be taken into account. Oh for Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond or Essendon (who did come in the pre-season). While Bulldogs and Giants fans predominate, in typical Manuka fashion just about all other team colours are represented. Just next to me a GWS member is even wearing his ACT Brumbies (rugby union) winter jacket. Understand that this is a footy crowd desperate for any game of top class footy not just loyally following their own team.

GWS is Canberra’s best chance so the locals try hard to make it work. Today building industry workers do a lap of honour. Prime Minister Gillard  (a Doggies fan) has gone from The Lodge now but the match is still for the Prime Minister’s Cup. Who knows whether that will last.

The Bulldogs are overwhelming favourites with the bookies, despite last week’s loss to fellow cellar-dweller Melbourne, but it is the still winless Giants best chance of a win in front of their sort of local crowd. There is plenty of Orange around the ground, but the only local boy, Ainslie’s Jason Tutt, is playing for the Bulldogs. Davis and Bruce are out for GWS.

My journey starts with a free bus from Civic to suburban Manuka (the government is trying!) and I’m armed with my free CBus inflatable mini-hammer. It’s a cold 11 degrees and by half time I’m finding it hard to hold my pen to write my match notes. Before three-quarter time the lights come on.  I’d rather be on the ground because it’s not a bad day for running around.

I enjoyed this match despite the unpromising aspects and despite my team losing. Most of all it was always close. GWS led nearly all day but couldn’t clinch it. It was also very physical and brave. At times it even looked like rugby union, which would have suited fans from other codes. Both sides really wanted the ball and didn’t shirk any contests. That’s what makes a footy game worth watching whether it is the MCG, Manuka or country football.

What both sides could take from the match was that their young players are their future. This is obvious as far as the Giants are concerned. They have too few top-class senior players and Chad Cornes retired during the week without playing a game this year. Only Stephen Gilham of those on the field had played 100 games. But what they do have are some young leaders like Callan Ward and Tom Scully as well as a clutch of young men who will become real stars. Today the best of those were Dylan Shiel, Nick Haynes,Devon Smith, Jeremy Cameron and Lachie Whitfield. But there are many others.

The Bulldogs too are building. Today their senior players like Cooney, Griffen, Minson and Giansiracusa got them over the line. But their  great seniors are fading and won’t see glory days again. Brett Goodes probably won’t be around for the glory days either, but what a pleasure it was to see his composure and talents today. Can someone explain to me why he hasn’t played sooner?

Bulldogs fans must be patient (as if they haven’t been for years!) Michael Talia, the tall defender, was a revelation to me in only his 9th game. Nathan Hrovat, 20 cms shorter and also in his 9th game, injected pace and dash as the sub.  Dahlhaus, Wallis, Liberatore, Smith and Tutt have less than 50 games but will be the backbone of the next Bulldogs finals side.

The four points at Manuka  in front of 7,000 are worth as much as points won in front of 85,000 at the MCG. If AFL is to be truly national then that must continue to be the case.


Western Bulldogs                           4.1          5.5          9.7          13.9        (87)

Greater Western Sydney             4.2          5.6          9.9          12.11     (83)



Western Bulldogs: Giansiracusa 3, Smith, Tutt, Jones 2, Stringer, Dalhaus, Wallis, Dickson

GWS: Shiel , Cameron 3, Smith, O’hAilpin 2, Whitfield, Hoskin-Elliott



Western Bulldogs: Talia, Goodes, Murphy, Cooney, Giansiracusa,  Hrovat,  Minson

GWS: Shiel, Haynes, Scully, Cameron, Whitfield, Smith, Giles


Umpires: Wenn, Ryan, Leppard

Official Crowd: 7.132


Our votes: 3 Talia (WB), 2 Shiel (GWS), 1 Haynes (GWS)


  1. Kath Presdee says

    This was, in my view, the Giants’ best 4 quarters this season. We missed some easily gettable points on a few occasions but we did not give up in the fourth, as we have so often.

    I am glad you gave points to Shiel and Haynes. Haynes had his best game in orange on Saturday and it helped a lot.

  2. cowshedend says

    Nice review John, reckon the dogs might have sung ‘Sons fo the Scray’ for the last time for the year, and also think that will be the last time they get to beat GWS for a number of years.
    Just a couple of things, reckon Cooney was dreadful, he is either disinterested or cannot play across half back (time to put that experiment well and truly to bed)
    Also reckon Giles got the points over Minson.
    GWS flogged the Dogs on the spread, but coughed it up on occasion(when those errors go, they will smash the likes of the dogs)
    Also reckon the umpires must have thought the Scraggers had won too many games and were far too successful,they seemed to think that their involvement was required to bring about a different outcome.

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