How the West is being won


by Rod Gillett

AFL football will be played at four different venues in Sydney this season. Three of those are in western Sydney. Only one is in the city, the traditional home of the game, the Sydney Cricket Ground. Footy has been played at the SCG since the 1880s and hosted VFL matches as early as 1904, with the Sydney Swans becoming permanent tenants in 1982.

The three venues – the Olympic Stadium at Homebush, the Skoda Stadium at the Sydney Showgrounds, and the Blacktown International Sportspark  (where the Olympic softball was played) will be home  to the GWS Giants.

All of these venues are in the so-called rugby league/soccer heartland where interest in Australian football is often depicted as negligible. Yet the game has been there for over a hundred years albeit at not the same level as it is now.

There is still no A League team in western Sydney. A few years ago, the proposed soccer franchise was to be called the “Sydney Rovers” with no reference to western Sydney…

Meanwhile, Bruce Purser Reserve at Rouse Hill hosted the NAB Cup fixture between the Swans and North Melbourne last Saturday.

Bruce Purser Reserve is the home base of the Sydney Hills Eagles (formerly known as the East Eagles Eagles and before that as Baulkham Hills) that this year will play in the North East Australian Football League. The ground was purpose-built for AFL and reflects the growing regard for footy in the west.

The Eagles have won the past two premierships in the Sydney AFL Premier League, and also represented NSW in the interstate knock-out series between non-AFL clubs, the Foxtel Cup.

The other team in the NEAFL from western Sydney is the UWS Giants. The GWS Giants secured sponsorship of the region’s major higher education institution, the University of Western Sydney (UWS).

The game continues to advance at the grassroots level too. There are senior clubs in the Sydney all through the greater west from Campbelltown round through Parramatta and Penrith to Hawkesbury.  Parramatta’s home-ground, the Gipps Road Oval which has been used in pre-season training by the GWS Giants, is reserved exclusively for AFL.

This a far-cry for the old days when even the Swans had to share training venues as the SCG No 2 oval with the NSW Sheffield Shield team at the same time.

Footy is gaining ground in the Greater West.



  1. Rod I hope you are correct although I think it wll taking some time until they start winning games on regular basis to atteact the theatre goers of Sydney’s West and the league teams are going alright at the moment Still if anyone can con a crowd its Sheedy. Hope things a well in the sandy states

  2. Rocket Nguyen says


    The issue about securing grounds may not be as critical in Canberra as it is in Sydney.

    No access to enclosed grounds in the early part of the 20th Century really stifled the development of the game.

    Now the competition between the codes is for space – access to parks and reserves. The AFL has worked really closely with local councils to secure access to grounds with partial funding of developments. Its proving to be an effective strategy.

  3. Big Dick says

    WHEN u look at the rugby players Rocket, as I did at close quarters last Friday night in Melb,you can’t help noticing the different body shapes.

    The r. union players have massive thighs. Tree trunk-sized, in fact. The Waratahs full-back just in front of of our seats was jigging about trying to pre-determine where the next Melb. Rebels thrust was coming from.

    As it happened, there was NO thrust or nothing of any consequence. But he had very big legs and presumably he’s a running back, much more nimble and agile than his cohorts in the forward pack.

    So that’s why Folau and K. Hunt will take some time to shape up. Players from the 2 rugby codes don’t have anything like the aerobic or endurance capacities of elite AFL players, who are inestimably fitter.

    And Rocket I didn’t see any Sky Blues Rah Rah when I played for Sydney Uni A. Rules side in 1962-63. Two of us were students at Middle Head — at the Aust. School of Pacific Administration — and were “ring-ins” for the Uni rules side.

    So we’d get to training at the same time as the r. union guys. Their training times were roughly the same as ours … late afternoons.

    When they were playing so were we: at Trumper Oval on Old South Head Road, at Erskineville Oval, out in the west at Parramatta and I’ve forgotten where North Sydney’s HQ was. But we played them too, along with Balmain, Easts and the rest.

  4. Rocket Nguyen says

    Grand old days for footy in Sydney in the early 60s whn you were running around in blue and gold Big Dick…

    Norths played at the magniicent but small North Sydney Oval – shared with the now defunct Norths RL club (no NRL club on the north shore – Sydney is not necessarily a RL town as Roy Masters et al try to tell us) and Northern Suburbs in the rugger.

    Balmain were based at Jubilee oval in Glebe and Easts at Trumper park.

    Matches were ususally played on Sundays so the bookies could field…

  5. Richard Naco says

    I think that GWS are going to be huge (pun not intended).

    I know a lot of sports’ nuts – not just AFL tragics like a certain gabby Catter aiming to be there in his hooped threads – who are counting down the days (16) before the Swans – Giants celebration.

    I, for one, aim to be buying Giants’ membership on the night in order to do my little bit to get the (ad)venture up and running, and I know of some members of the Swans’ cheer squad who have already done so.

    GWS will be the avalanche of Australian sport – it’ll look as harmless as a snowball in its early stages, but with a bit of time & momentum and it will becaome a serious case of WHOOOSHA!

  6. Haje Halabi says

    Rocket- can you see the days when you can travel around the west and kids will be kicking an afl footy in the backyard?

  7. TR, the Swans were definitely built on theatregoers which is not surprising given the Swans were gypsies performing a show.

    I suspect GWS fans are going to have more substance for a host of reasons.

  8. Rocket Nguyen says

    Hi Haje,

    Sydney will always be multi-codal, that’s why its so confusing to have the media now call soccer, football. Its annoying for all fans, Talk about misappropriation of a name!

    The real challenge for AFL in Sydney is still to get into the GPS schools. Kings at Parramatta has 15 hectares of sports fields. Yet no AFL, nor league for that matter. They’ll never allow the mongers in.

    GWS is a major investment in the game comrade.

  9. pamela sherpa says

    Richard , I share your optimism. I think the game is going to go gangbusters in Western Sydney. Am just back from a clinic at Manuka oval and the lady in charge of merchandising said they have been selling loads of stuff. I can also report that Israel Folau has the best looking calf muscles(in my opinion) since Andrew McLeod’s. The Giants were relaxed and friendly and I enjoyed having a chat to a few of the players including Izzy.

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