I Was There

In the finest Almanac tradition, I can say- “I WAS THERE.”

Matt has chatted with Malcolm in the far north, Flynny’s been bedazzled by Bubba at Augusta, Dips has saluted the winner at Stawell, and now I can declare that ‘I’ve been to Blacktown.’


I knew Blacktown was somewhere between Sydney and the Blue Mts. but had no idea where the actual football ground ‘Sportspark’ was.  After looking at a map and assuming the ground was at the Blacktown Olympic Park complex, my friends in the Blue Mtns. suggested driving down there would be the easiest option. It was an easy 1hr drive, and $10 to park a few hundred metres from the ground.  No probs!


My general admission ticket entitled me to sit on the grass slope surrounding most of the ground.  There is only one main grandstand with seating.  Behind the fence gum trees surround the park and there’s even a bit of swamp land. I could be anywhere in the bush. The Sportspark complex was apparently built for the 2000 Olympics.


It’s a warm autumn day so shoes and socks immediately come off and I roll up my jeans.


I settle in with the orange brigade. We out number our opposition West Coast supporters quite significantly, and we will take any small advantage we can get on or off the field this year.
We’re here for the long haul. Losses, challenges, disappointments. It’s all part of the journey.


The Eagles are seasoned travellers  and footballers and waste no time getting down to business. Their first five shots for goal are accurate. They kick 11.4 for the quarter and the Giants manage to register two straight. At least we’ve scored.


In the second quarter the Eagles add 4.4  to their total and the Giants score 2.1 We are consistent. We have not faded away yet.


At three quarter time the score is 21.9 to 6.5 . The Giants have added their regulation two for the quarter and the big excitement was that Izzy registered his first kick for the game. When you barrack for the Giants small moments like this are seized upon and celebrated.

The Giants double their quota in the last quarter and actually outscore the potential premiers. We had a go and we tired them out !Positive signs.

Final scores: Eagles 23.12(150) to Giants 10.9(69)


I’ve enjoyed watching old timers Chad Cornes, Dean Brogan  and Luke Power earn their pension checks and our youngsters  who are  having a dip and learning the game. Tom Scully has a cool head and good skills to match.


And  of course we have Izzy. He is in a separate category altogether at the moment. But the fans love him.

Someone once said’ Love is all you need. ‘ Izzy will get lots of love but he also needs to get a bit of the ball. He has a brilliant leap and the ruck seems to be the obvious place to put him to allow him to get a feel for and into the game.

There’s a long season a ahead which means – time for a lot of improvement. It will be interesting to see what Sheeds does with him.


I’m thrilled that the Giants have actually scored 10 goals for a game and for the statisticians out there  -we happen to have registered a greater score than Collingwood , Brisbane and the Bulldogs for round three.


And I now know where Blacktown is.


Pamela Sherpa



  1. I liked that your kids never gave up, and had a dip all game. I think Sheedy, Choco and Gubby Allen have a very professional and shrewd model for building young men, footballers and ultimately a successful club.
    What I don’t like is the number of uncompetitive games in the AFL currently, and that is about a lot more than GWS. I want to be excited about the footy, not bored and reading the paper instead of watching the game.
    The next broadcast deal will quite rightly see pressure back on the AFL to get rid of some Melbourne clubs to create a quality, competitive competition.
    GWS will be a formidable team by then. Enjoy the ride. The Eagles took 3 seasons of being rubbish to build the bodies and awareness to become serious competitors again. It is just like watching your kids go through the teenage years. Painful and frustrating – then wonderful when they suddenly realise their potential.

  2. I was there also. Izzy was doubled over gasping midway through the second quarter, he has no aerobic ability. It must frustrate the coaching staff playing with 17 players.
    Tom Scully looks the goods. Still very slight but he ran out the game beautifully.

  3. Peter Schumacher says

    Good on you Pamela, you have immediately embraced this side and to be truthful I think that they will need plenty of embraces.

    I too really hope that Izzy makes a go of it.

    Bottom line, Aussie Rules iis such a great game let us hope that it realises it’s potential sooner rather than later in Western Sydney.

  4. Stephen Cooke says

    Pamela, my wife and I saw the oval on TV and both thought: we have to watch a game from that hill. And those blue gums! Magnificent.
    The atmosphere reminded me of Carrara in the late 80s- speaking of which, is Sheeds expected to play Izzy every week, ala Capper and Paul Cronin?

  5. Pamela Sherpa says

    Matt, I am intrigued by Izzy’s lack of aerobic ability. Will be interesting to see if he improves over the season.
    I think he needs to be on the ball and in the ruck -at least doing something to be exhausted about.

  6. Skip of Skipton says

    Israel Folau isn’t a footballer, and people should not expect too much of him. The best bet would be to play him out of the goal square, with instructions to the mids to bomb it in long to him when he’s one out with his opponent and not crowded for space. He’s an imposing unit and can take a grab. Small steps. Keep it simple. Too many instructions and tactics and positions to play is likely to fry his brain and turn him sour.

  7. I went up to Sydney (and then out to Blacktown) for the day with a few other Melbourne-based ex-WA mates. My observations were:

    – the train journey from Central to Blacktown’s Doonside station is unlikely to feature in any ‘Scenic Railways of the World’ publication

    – my commitment that I will follow the West Coast Eagles to the ends of the earth is no longer an empty boast

    – the great thing about a small, quiet crowd is that you can hurl abuse and know that they’ll actually hear you (it helped that we sat in Row 5 right behind the interchange, but Brogan got to hear all about his cowardly cheap-shot on Shuey every time he came on or off the ground)

    – I had initially thought the Rooty Hill RSL had missed a golden opportunity by not having its courtesy bus lined up to collect footy patrons at the end of the game… but apparently that joint is big enough to want its own postcode, so it probably had no need to chase an extra 6,875

    – seemed to be more blue-and-gold than orange on the trains and at the station; don’t know what that means, but there’s something about the Giants’ demographic; are they all Blacktown locals? from specific parts of the western suburbs not served by rail, but rather having to drive? if so, will they go to Homebush?

    – kick-to-kick on the ground after a game remains one of life’s simplest but greatest pleasures

  8. Richard Naco says

    Well done, Pamela!

    I was all set to be there at Blacktown (it would have taken me two hours to get to western Sydney by public transport from my reside in southern Sydney), right up to when my wife pointed out that Sunday was Orthodox Easter and that her rather expansive family was having a group hug/ barbeque. I did point out that I am atheist, but that Catch 22 went nowhere when it was pointed out that I am also still married.

    It may gall those not caught up in the excitement of the growth of GWS (and the Gold Coast), but the margins do not diminish the thrill of watching this team develop. The Sheeds/ Choco/ Gubby model is a bewt, and I am convinced that this club has a more than viable future. But right now, it’s all baby steps and blowouts, and it does take some faith – even for an atheist – to see the giant strides and giant leaps that are coming.

    So, during my tea break yesterday, I officially joined the GWS Cheer Squad, and will be in Canberra for our next home game.

    The Revolution continues.

  9. Tony Robb says

    Pamela do I now take it that you have finished with the Dons to follow and embrace the Gnats as means of trying to embrace Sheeds I was in Sydney on Sunday and it strikes me that following any team outside your post code is hell given the time and displeasure involved to get anywhere . Perhaps the move to Homwbush may allow better access. Sadly I want be able to take the excitement of canberras tax dollars running around Manuka next week but I’ll go there for the Suns game if only to see Jnr run around racking up 63 touches

  10. Two losses and you’ve dropped the Cats already Richard?

  11. It’s unfortunate that GWS aren’t playing any more games at Blacktown INTERNATIONAL Sportspark (BISP). It was a great atmosphere on the hill amongst a predominantly orange crowd. The rest of their home games this year are either at Manuka Oval or Skoda Stadium. I’m looking forward to going along to Skoda, but if Sunday was any indication the crowd could be a bit sparse at the new venue.

    I thought numbers 7,8 & 9 were very strong for the Giants (so Palmer, Ward, Sculley), but their forward line, given it relies on 18-20 years olds, is along way from kicking a winning score. Brogan seemed the most damaging potential forward and he moves about as quickly as an iceberg these days. It’s unlikely that they win a game this year, but I will go along anyway given their situation seems so tough.

    I thought the crowd was interesting. There were clearly a lot of members given the high ‘orange’ factor in the crowd. But I don’t think there were many ‘discretionary’ supporters that came along for the first time to give AFL a whirl. Economic conditions are very tough in Western Sydney so I think it’s a hard road ahead for management, coaches and the senior players.

  12. Pamela Sherpa says

    Skip,-Sheeds is doing what you suggest but t it isn’t working. Izzy doesn’t anticipate the flow of the game, lead to the right spot at the right time and they are not kicking the ball to him when he happens to be in position.(I didn’t mind the younger blokes who by passed him actually having a shot themselves.) I agree on keeping it simple. I would like to see him amongst the action in the middle with one simple instructions to start with- tackle the player with the ball. At least he would get a taste for the action He won’t develop any kind of match fitness sitting down at full forward getting demoralised. He has a beautiful leap so ruck is a good spot as well. He can at least win some hit outs. Sheeds put him there late in the game.
    Matt where is Skoda stadium and why aren’t the Giants playing at Blacktown again for the season if it is their home ground?
    Richard , would be nice to meet you at Manuka. My seat number is Bay 5, Row K, Seat 20
    Tony , I am still Bomber and just realised we play you this weekend so enjoy the rest of your week!
    Brad , good on you for making the trip up and out.. I was wondering what getting there from the Sydney side would be like. I remember when people thought Homebush was out of the way. It’s such a close easy destination now. Like you I was pleased that kick to kick was allowed. It’s always awesome fun at Manuka too.

  13. Pamela,

    your statement ‘my seat number is Bay5, Row K, Seat 20’ coupled with ‘I am still a Bomber’ is not too convincing.

    What was that fairytale about the rope made from hair? Only one strand has to be imperfect and the whole thing snaps.

    I think you are doing some serious wavering. We will need to discuss this over a cuppa home made soup and a butcher’s shop sav in the Wynyard grandstand.

  14. Richard N, atheist or not, you cannot give up Greek Easter lunch. Like you, that’s what I was doing on Sunday with my wife’s family. Until 2.50, at which point, belly full to over flowing, I headed off to the G to watch the Hawks give the Crows a footy lesson in the fading Autumnal sun.

    Pamela, great to get a non-cynical report on GWS first home game. Our company has offices from Parramatta all the way to Katoomba. I have spent a fair bit of time in the region. I’ve had a dinner or two at the Rooty Hill RSL and I’ve stayed at the Penrith Panthers. It takes a while to enjoy Western Sydney but once you ‘get’ the place it really opens up. Talk about the melting pot of new Australia. I reckon you’re in for one hell of a ride.

  15. Pamela Sherpa says

    Thanks Rick. The day before the game I met up with people I hadn’t seen for 20-30 years at a funeral in the Blue Mts . None of them are footy fans like me and all went bushwalking while I went to the footy. Some of them had bought motorbikes , boats and planes during their midlife days .Following the Giants is my midlife adventure.

  16. Peter Flynn says


    ‘I was there’ is close to my favourite phrase.

    I always giggle when I hear it.

    Enjoyed your piece.

  17. Richard Naco says

    Rick: it was Lebanese Orthodox, but that’s just a minor picky picky. The obligations remain the same. I hope we can catch up at a game sometime.

    Pamela: I’ll be at the Doggies game on Saturday week, sitting in the cheer squad. As I said on another thread, those of us doing the two club tango will have to get a group photo some time this season, wearing GWS gear with our ‘other’ teams’ scarves.

    And Phanta Man, you utter larrikin. ;) I think I can safely squeak for those of us in Sydney doing said two club tango, when I say that we will always have a home team of our hearts & another of our geography. I will never cease to be a Cat, and will maintain my Geelong membership indefinitely. But the cold hard truth is that I will probably be exiled in Sydney till the reaper ends my marriage (because nothing else has a hope of doing so), so my chances of joining the hooped faithful in our weekly celebrations will be few and far between.

    I will be able to do so much more hands on to help establish this club – and it is not a “franchise” – in the wild wild western (suburbs) frontier of our fantastic indigenous game. And as GWS inevitably prospers, so will the AFL. And in turn, so will my Geelong and Pamela’s Essendon.

    So there is no smell of burning martyr arising from this. It is incredibly exciting seeing how this club is embracing innovation in coaching & marketing, how this incredible & expansive vision is slowly becoming more tangible each week, and how the stated policy of social inclusion is being made manifest in Sydney’s west. I predict now, that the Giants’ cheer squad will become one of the most progressive in any sport in this wide brown land, and how we will soon truly reflect the changing face of modern, multi-cultural Australia.

    This new club is a bold, brave & broad ranging vision splendid of where we as a sport and society can go, and anybody on hand to witness it would have to be impossibly blinkered not to be drawn to the infinite possibilities as our journey unwinds. No other club in the country can offer this vision – it is the unique demography of Sydney’s greater west that offers us so much opportunity to make a massive statement.

    Like everybody else in the Giants’ cheer squad, I am a man of two clubs. And neither negates the other.

    An orange cat?

  18. Pamela Sherpa says

    Richard -that is great that you have joined the Giants cheer squad. I completely identify with your sentiments I will look for you at the Manuka game.

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