Round 18 – Richmond v GWS: Flying away – the Giants away game problem

 

This week, one of Richmond’s most passionate online supporters who is behind the excellent William Blake themed Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright blog, Dugald Jellie, placed this tweet and responses in regards the size of the Giants’ supporter crowd at the MCG. It’s another volume of the “Giants are a corporate franchise with no soul” corpus that often plays amongst supporters of VFL turned AFL clubs.

We Giants’ supporters are used to this style of question. Watch a number of away games involving our club and you may not see many of us there. It is a touch unfair, however, to judge our club and our support on the basis of the numbers of away support at this stage of our development.  Unfair judgement, however, is unfortunately a theme for many who report on our team.  This is why I felt moved to reply.

Before I dive further into that theme though, I will add that Dugald wasn’t being malicious – he is incapable of that – he was merely asking the question of whether our club will ever work.

In addition, this came as an explainer from one the Giants’ more passionate Melbourne based fans, Jessica, which acts as a springboard to my comments about why Giants’ supporter groups will remain small for a while.

Who are the Giants supporters? Why aren’t we flying en masse to Melbourne?  As a Foundation Member and interstate traveller to see the club play, I want to provide some insight into the life of a Giants’ supporter. There are a number of reasons why we aren’t being seen at away games and won’t be for some time.

How do you build a club? Victorian clubs have the considerable richness of history, traditions, history.  (It is that richness – more the downside than upsides – that is often raised in discussion of the creation and recent success of the Giants.) With that richness comes the hardened supporter. The ones who will turn up and sit in their seat at the G or Docklands, whether it’s their club playing, or if they are playing an “away” game at the same venues.  These same supporters will often fly interstate for the 4 -6 games that happen in the other states as a crew of supporters with often decades of passion.

History – the inbalance between Victorian clubs and the rest. How do you build a club? Victorian clubs have the considerable richness of traditions, history.  With that richness comes the hardened supporter.  It is that richness – more the downside than upsides – that is often raised in discussion of the creation and recent success of the Giants.  These are the ones who will turn up and sit in their seat at the G or Docklands, whether it’s their club playing, or if they are playing an “away” game at the same venues.  These same supporters will often fly interstate for the 4 – 6 games that happen in the other states as a crew of supporters with often decades of passion.  For the Giants’ supporters, we have 10 non-NSW/ACT games, as well as the 3 Canberra games to get to.

 

The Cost of Flying. This is one of the bigger barriers. The cheapest flights are Jetstar or Tiger, and we have to fly at *interesting* times to get the $75 each way flights.  To make things convenient from Avalon, hiring a car is often the most cost effective way of getting around, especially if there’s more than one of us going. Flying to somewhere other than the 8 or so away games in Melbourne or Geelong?  Costs tend to spiral, especially to Perth. That’s not taking into consideration if we need to take a family, which is a factor about a large number of Giants’ supporters.   Costs go up for Canberra based fans, as Canberra flights are fewer and more expensive.  This is why the Richmond game, coming as it did after a number of interstate away games, was a big financial ask for any supporter.

 

The Lack of History Interstate. The Swans and the Lions have old club roots, WA and SA have expats, but the Giants have few historical connections to places far afield.  Some have stopped supporting their club (such as Essendon supporters who had had enough of the Dank affair), but there’s not that style of connection.

 

Getting to the Game in Victoria. The Sunday game against Richmond was a rare Sunday game that did not prove difficult for Giants’ fans getting back to Sydney.  There are many bad scheduling times for Giants’ supporters in terms of getting back to Sydney. Friday night, such as for the upcoming game against the Bulldogs, is a terrible one. We would need to take a day off work as leave, either unpaid, flex or long service (which I am doing, as it is on my birthday). Saturday afternoon is reasonable if you want to do a FIFO trip, but Saturday twilight requires an overnight stay, due to the curfew into Sydney airport, as does Saturday night. So… add more money to the trip.

 

Getting to the Game in other states. For some reason best known to the AFL, many non Victorian Giants’ away games are held late on Sunday afternoon, which makes it nearly impossible for supporters to fly back to Sydney on Sunday night, due to the curfew.  The “solution” is to fly back to Sydney first thing in the morning and go straight to work, or catch the redeye from Perth.

 

Paula and Steven Strother, the ultimate Giants supporters, have managed to attend EVERY Giants game, with all of these conditions. They still amaze me with their effort.  We personally manage one, maybe two and usually as a part of a bigger holiday in order to get some value from the flights.  We have had great times in Adelaide, Geelong, Tasmania and the Gold Coast that have happened to include football. But the FIFO football life could never be an option for us.

 

The other complicating factor is that we are all early adopter, former supporters of other clubs. What of the target for the AFL? The young players, the adult supporters who are football-curious of the greater west. Most of them aren’t going to dive in and spend $500 and more on 8 away trips to Melbourne a year – we are happy to see them out at the Showground as a start.   We also like seeing the multi-scarved crew in Canberra.

 

It’s still unfair when supporters of Victorian clubs accuse the Giants of having no soul or right to exist (not Dugald, but many on Twitter and on Big Footy).  This reply to Dugald’s tweet from Tony Wilson, a writer I greatly admire, was particularly disappointing.

We know and sympathise with the lack of support many clubs had from the V/AFL in the past.  It would also be great if a Tasmanian side was financially viable and be able to reconcile the competing claims of both halves of the state – as well as sort out how to help the Kangaroos and Wilson’s Hawthorn exit from Tasmania.  The AFL have decided, however, that the western suburbs of Sydney can be a fertile field for the game. For us Western Sydney based AFL rusted ons, it’s a great and happy surprise to be a part of such a gift.  We are, our growing Orange Army, giving the club that soul.  The soul will grow alongside the young future players from the outer west. That way, Campbelltown won’t be just famous in AFL history for briefly giving Dustin Martin a home.

 

All of this is why we won’t see thousands of Giants’ fans watching games at the G anytime soon.  But is that the whole point of football?  For fans with the cash to pay for expensive trips? I can assure Dugald and others that we were watching that game on Sunday and were pretty furious with the Giants’ general lack of effort throughout the 2nd and 3rd quarters.  We continue to ride with the rise and fall of the club, gnash our teeth at the injuries, the mistakes of inexperience, the rushes of blood to Toby’s head.

 

 

About Mark O'Sullivan

A teacher, musician and GWS Giants Foundation Member

Comments

  1. Thanks for this well-considered piece Mark. Unfortunately haters gonna hate rather than embrace the fact that the wonderful world of AFL footy has been brought to a new demographic. The very people who (quite rightly) say that NRL is rubbish and everyone should watch AFL footy are often those who criticise the existence of the Giants.

  2. Well argued piece, Mark. It’s interesting the upswing in chatter about GWS among Richmond supporters this year, and this week, with the impending debut of Brett Deledio. All Richmond fans are hoping the best for him. So our allegiances have transferred to this new franchise through a player transfer. Not sure these allegiances would travel so easily if, say, he had moved to Collingwood or Carlton.
    The AFL landscape has changed so much over the past 20 years and there’s no doubt the creation of GWS has been the biggest change. It is uncharted territory. It is a bold experiment. It’ll take much time for traditional Victorian loyalties to accept this new world over, but it will be hastened by fans like you adding to the discourse. I guess once a few players start emerging from western Sydney, the process will accelerate. From little things, big things grow. Either way, enjoy the ride, and I did enjoy the food selection when I visited Spotless Stadium. Much better than at the G. Hope Lids carves it up! Love that bloke.

Leave a Comment

*