Good for Footy in New South Wales

This morning at Child Care drop off, I spotted out of the corner of my eye, on the desk, behind the counter, out of reach of little sticky fingers, a shiny autographed Red Sherrin. What on earth? A Sherrin?

Curiosity got the better of me. Where did this footy come from? Upon closer inspection, I noticed on the side of the footy, opposite the excessive sponsorship logo, was the ever more recognisable G emblem.

G for Giants.

It gave me quite a spring in my step. Put a smile on my face. It was a sign that Australian Rules football is breathing in New South Wales. It warms the heart. I jumped in the car, turned off Peter Combe’s Juicy Juicy Green Grass and let my mind run free, reminiscing about all things football.

It’s been a very long haul for Australian Rules footy fans in Sydney. Footy is just not that common. It’s the harsh reality.

Now something strange is happening.

This weekend could result in the biggest opportunity administrators of the AFL have ever been confronted with. It’s all about what is ‘good for footy in New South Wales’. It’s a phrase thrown about by those wanting to see Aussie Rules flourish in our home town.

Unfortunately, for the non-Swans supporting AFL fan, increased AFL promotion and attention in the media has depended largely on the Swans winning. The big conundrum.

Until now.

The Swans arrived in 1982 into a tumble weed rolling Aussie Rules desert. A Rugby League town with a dozen or so teams you could swear your allegiance to, where traditional clashes played out at suburban grounds with no mention of interstate club dominance. Sound familiar?

It was one small step.

By 1986, Capper was taking speccies in his tight shorts and driving Lamborghinis. It was ‘good for footy in New South Wales’. People were starting to notice. Diesel won a Brownlow. ‘What’s a Brownlow?’. People weren’t paying attention for the right reasons.

After a period of small on-field success, glitz and glamour, the Swans disappeared off the radar of the general Sydney population. Things weren’t going to script and the Swans required rescuing.

They say one of the keys to success is to surround yourself with smart people. So, in 1993, the Swans found the smartest available at the time. Barassi. Every rescue drama has a hero.

They also say, ‘get yourself a good Full Forward’. So pretty soon they got Plugger. I can’t be sure but I think they say ‘you need somebody safe down back’ too. So they gave Roosy a call.

In 1995, Paul Kelly won a Brownlow. ‘Nah, not To Her Door, a different bloke’.

One year later, Kelly, Plugger and Roosy lifted the Swans into a Grand Final. A premiership would have been ‘good for footy in New South Wales’ but King Carey and his men were not about to abdicate.

To this day, Kelly and Plugger could probably walk down the main street of Parramatta in their rag-dags and nobody would know them. Barassi and Roosy could join them for a schooner, not a pot, in Rooty Hill RSL, and nobody would ask for an autograph. Or even a selfie. Well, it’s highly unlikely.

The fate of footy in Sydney has ultimately fallen on the shoulders of the Sydney Swans. For a city that only supports winners, they have needed big shoulders. Luckily in 2002, following previous advice to get a good full forward, Barry Hall arrived. Big shoulders. Bad and bustlin’.

In 2003, Goodes won a Brownlow. ‘Yeah that’s it, where all the pretty girls get dressed up’. There was some movement, the word was getting around. It had taken twenty years but footy was getting a bit of traction.

When the Swans delivered a premiership in 2005, they finally put footy on the map in Sydney.  ‘How about those Swans, hey?’.

In 2006, Goodes won another Brownlow and the Swans nearly went back to back. They had the footy market in Sydney sewn up.

The end.

My drive to work is very scenic and soothing. It’s even better on the way home. Lots of water, boats, activity…

Then out of nowhere, like Yeates on Brereton, Sydneysiders were hit with news they were getting another team. ‘What?  How?  Where?  When?’. Just like every big brother before them, the Swans were getting a younger sibling and they didn’t have a say in it.

It would be ‘good for footy in New South Wales’.

Soon after, there was a team in Western Sydney being coached by the best ever. GWS had listened to good advice. They got Sheeds. Blue Collar. Suburban. Plumber. Perfect fit. ‘Who’s Kevin Sheedy?’.

In 2012, the Swans delivered another flag. ‘How about Malceski’s goal!’.

The Swans enjoyed the period that every big brother has. For a while they were bigger, stronger, harder and faster. They knew the Giants would grow up someday and they needed to stamp some authority.

What was that advice? Get a good full forward?


In the meantime, the Giants grew up. Fast.

It’s hard to believe what took place last Saturday. Two Sydney based AFL teams playing off for a place in an AFL Preliminary Final. In front of 60,000. At Homebush too. Not the SCG, even though the Swans were entitled to a home game.

‘That’s not fair’.

It was a rare occasion for Swans supporters, adversely affected by a decision made on the basis of what is ‘good for footy in New South Wales’. Understandably, they didn’t like it. We never do either.

The final result surprised most of us.  The little brother belted his big brother and The Giants were into a Preliminary Final.

If the Swans can get past an inspired Crows outfit at the SCG on Saturday night, they will be in the other Preliminary Final. They’ll do it.

AFL Headquarters better be on to this. Somebody call Don King now. Get Max Markson on the line. Heaven forbid, get Eddie McGuire involved if they have to. This thing needs to be promoted in Sydney. Big time. Don’t muck around. You only get one shot. See Eminem.

I get lost in my thoughts and forget about work. Footy is the best distraction.

Nobody wants to get ahead of themselves but the prospect of an all Sydney AFL Grand Final is alive and well.

It would be a giant leap.

I can’t help but look forward to Child Care pick up in the afternoon. Imagine if the kids are kicking that shiny red Sherrin around.

That would be ‘good for footy in New South Wales’.

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Demons supporter. 1987 broke my heart. 1988 and 2000 is gone from my memory. The scars still exist. I still want them to do it for Robbie. I dream about the magic day all the time.


  1. Like your article Piffy.

    You only had to see the two days of eight finals games being played at Blacktown on the weekend to realise that a shift is under way. And if you walk past the lakeside oval opposite the SCG and watch the kids in the Swans Academy, or watch the games played there and at Trumper Park on a Saturday between the local schools and clubs, the talent is certainly there. Perhaps more importantly – at the grass roots level – it is gradually becoming a part of Sydney’s sporting scene.

    Still a long way to go though.

  2. kath presdee says

    Our junior club has had a massive increase in kids making the transition from Auskick to juniors. Last year we scraped together enough kids for an Under 9s; but by the end of the season we were providing other teams with players to make up their numbers.

    This year we had two Under 9s and one Under 10s.

  3. Good onya Piff. Interesting.

    Footy always had a good following in the Riverina, up to what ron Ian Turner so eloquently described ass the Barassii line. Albury, Berrigan, Corowa,and other towns in the south were footy towns, but once you got past Temora, Cootamundra rugby took over.

    In all ways, bar finances, it would make sense to have side based in or near Canberra. We can never know how much $$ wise the AFL has pumped into NSW to develop our game. I still remember during the 1980’s and 190’s when they’d print the attendance list for matches at the SCG, but never the gate takings! Go figure.

    I hope sydney win the faag this year. They have a NSW born coach, Johnny Longmire from Corowa. A third flag for Sydney would allow them to join West Coast and Brisbane at the top of the table for flags won by the interstate sides .


  4. Piffy,
    Great article.
    SCG was a pretty lonely place in the late 80’s and early 90’s. At least the tickets were free!
    AFL goalposts are springing up everywhere and there is plenty of water cooler talk focused on footy which is great to see.
    Kinda makes the memory of being laughed at wearing tight Aussie Rules shorts to school in Sydney a distant memory!

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