Thursday, 28 March 2013

Open letter to Kevin Sheedy

Dear Kevin,

I see that you don't want to waste your one home game in a big stadium and you're keen to get people out there on Easter Saturday. You even wrote an open letter to me and quite a few others.

I assume I'm what you mean by a "Swannie" ‐ growing up in Sydney's Inner West, I supported the Swans right through the lean years of the early 90s, before things started to change and half the Eastern Suburbs saw the light. To be honest, my brother jumped on the Bombers bandwagon in 1993 and since 2000 we haven't managed to shake him off, but the rest of us were fully red and white.

We travelled north to play junior footy (in my case, very badly) almost under the shadow of the ANZAC Bridge. If it had been a few years later we might have gone west to a club called Western Suburbs. (For the Melbourne/Bondi people, that's not really "Western Sydney".) Things were changing, and now there are proper goalposts down the road from where I used to live.

Anyway, since then I've been proud to follow the club through the ups and slightly downs, joining in the elation or heartbreak whether in 05 and 06 in the middle of the night London time, or back home last year when yet again Sydney's team rubbished the usual critics who had written them off. I'm sure there'll be some of that sometime in the Giants' future, although not without a big fight from the Swans.

Yes, as a Swans fan, I don't like the 'Battle of the Bridge' concept. But that's not why I'm bothering to write this.

You see, unlike you, I actually live in Western Sydney these days. I'm keen to see our footy growing in this part of the world and have always thought two teams is better than one. But as a westie looking for a westie team this bridge nonsense just doesn't cut it. All my personal history at the SCG didn't keep me away from joining the Sydney Thunder, and for the last two years that's felt like a local team worth being with, despite no mention of the west in the name, the questionable management and a win-loss record almost as bad as the Giants.

Then there's the Wanderers. I'm not a soccer person, but they've started to appeal to me. I haven't seen them trying to manufacture a rivalry, but promoting themselves as the West's team whoever they're playing. And they've done a great job. Have you seen Church St on a game night? It helps that they don't play on the fringes of Greater Western Sydney. The same fans signing down Showground Rd wouldn't be quite as nice.

Don't get me wrong - the Olympic Stadium is great, especially for the big games. The public transport connections are really convenient (much better than the SCG). But you guys don't really love it - you only play there when the Easter Show is on and you're not in Canberra. You thought it'd be better to make us all pay for doing up the Showground just a hop, skip a jump to the east. I suppose it's hard to consider decent options with the NSW government involved. I just hope that at least the Royal Agricultural Society got a good deal out of it.

Yes, I know the Giants have to fit in with all sorts of arrangments. I know the players and staff have put a lot of work into the west. Plenty of involvement with schools and local clubs. We've seen how much more can be done when there two clubs, not just one. It's great that you're training at Gipps Rd tomorrow. It's just that whenever you talk to the public, it's all about how far from the east everything is, or the west is left right out.

Maybe it's just because the club wants to cover so much area. You didn't want a local home ground like the Wanderers as it might not appeal to other areas Noone's surprised you've got fans in Castle Hill or Katoomba - that's what you were aiming for when you chose that bureaucratic name. (The Hills and the Blue Mountains are well and truly part of GWS. It's Canada Bay that isn't.) Then you realised Canberra weren't going to see any better deal than you could offer, and never mind the games lost to Western Sydney. It shouldn't surprise us that now you're focussing on Rozelle, but trying to paint your rivals into a corner doesn't achieve as much having a strong base to grow out from.

Ah, yes, I said rivals. But most fans won't care about rivalry until it's close on the field. Last week we heard a lot about how close the other Kevin's team were to toppling their rivals, but in the end they didn't show up. Thankfully, with the Giants it's matter a matter of when, not if, they'll show up and be a serious challenger. If you do manage to win this week (hopefully not), or when you meet Sydney at the MCG in spring (hopefully soon), then talk to us about rivalry.

In the meantime, get in touch with the west your team represents. Do they care about some sort of Drummoyne v Paddington "Battle of the Bridge", or is your Eastern Suburbs talk just show your more interested in the numbers you can get from away fans?

In case it wasn't obvious, I have plans to be there anyway. Of course, I'll take one of the trains that start at Blacktown. Sydney Olympic Park is an awful place for a car except when there's nothing going on. Easter Saturday isn't one of those times!

See you then,