The league’s 18th club took a significant step forward on Tuesday night, unveiling its official name as the Greater Western Sydney Giants and colour scheme of orange, charcoal and white. But there remains a skepticism about the ability of Australian rules football to carve out a niche in the heartland of rugby leaguel.
The AFL, however, are clearly backing themselves to make a success of the ambitious project. One thing AFL does have in droves is money, the league set to pour around $120 million into establishing the new club.
Enormous draft concessions are also likely to make sure the team is competitive when it first runs onto a redeveloped Sydney Showgrounds stadium in 2012.
Former Geelong captain Tom Harley, who moved to Sydney 12 months ago, has no doubts the club can break down barriers that exist in a part of the country that largely doesn’t understand Aussie rules.
“Referring to a lot of the comments that it’s doomed to fail and all those sorts of things, I don’t buy into it,” Harley said.
“You’ve got corporate support already, you’ve got great talent, and then it’s all about capturing the hearts and minds.
“From the 12 months I’ve been up here, it’s a strong brand, people want to get involved.
“It’s a great opportunity and I’m very confident it can succeed.”
Inaugural Giants coach Kevin Sheedy, renowned as much for his promotional skills as his tactical nous, has been on overdrive since joining the club. He gradually turned a bright red as he danced from one side of the hall to the other at Tuesday’s launch shouting the message that the Giants are here to stay.
The former Essendon coach also interrupted a Folau press conference to present “our first supporter”, a baby wrapped in a Giants t-shirt.
Sheedy hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with AFL officialdom during more than four decades in the game, but he clearly has the support of chief executive Andrew Demetriou.
“I don’t think anyone would’ve thought in their wildest dreams that this club would’ve got as far as it has as quickly as it has,” Demetriou said.
“Then again, having Kevin Sheedy involved, I shouldn’t be surprised by anything.
“After 40 years in football, Kevin still has the capacity to come up with new ideas and he’s probably right that we as a code have been too slow in coming to western Sydney.”
The Giants will compete in next year’s NAB Cup and then spend a season in the newly-formed North East Australian Football League before joining the AFL in 2012.