On March 13, 2008 the idea for the AFL’s newest club was born after the league won the support of the 16 club Presidents to establish an 18th side to be based at Blacktown International Sportspark in Western Sydney.
AIS/AFL Academy coach Alan McConnell became the club’s High Performance Manager and first employee on July 1, 2009.
In August the League announced Team GWS would be the campaign for the AFL’s proposed 18th team and GWS would be represented in the TAC Cup Under-18 competition in the 2010 season.
In November 2009, AFL legend and former Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy was named the inaugural Head Coach of Team GWS on a three-year contract.
“This is a generational decision and the success of AFL in Greater Western Sydney won’t be known for 25 or 30 years but with a population of two million people, the AFL is serious about this venture and today’s appointment of one of the biggest names in AFL demonstrates our commitment to this region,” AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou said.
“The AFL has identified the Greater West of Sydney as a priority for expansion and Team GWS needs to demonstrate that it can build support and connect with the community. Kevin Sheedy has been a success as a player and coach and is without peer when it comes to engaging new communities in our game.”
Former Northern Territory Institute of Sport Head Coach Brett Hand was appointed Development Coach and Brownlow Medallist and ex-Sydney captain Paul Kelly accepted a role in the talent identification and fan development programs.
In February, 2010 former Brisbane Lions Football Manager Graeme Allan was appointed to the Football Department as Football Manager. That same month prominent infrastructure and engineering services industry leader Tony Shepherd was appointed the inaugural Chairman of GWS.
In April, GWS played its first TAC Cup match against the Northern Knights at Blacktown International Sportspark.
On June 1, 2010 Rugby League star Israel Folau announced he was switching codes to join GWS. The club also announced it had signed its first players - Curtly Hampton from the Northern Territory and local southern NSW players Sam Schulz and Mark Whiley.
That month well-known sports physiologist John Quinn joined GWS as head of the club’s sports science department.
On July 29, 2010 the AFL Commisssion announced that Team GWS was granted a licence to become the 18th team and would enter the competition in 2012. The announcement was made after the formal signing of an agreement with the NSW Government and the Royal Agricultural Society for a $60 million redevelopment of the Sydney Showgrounds - to become the home ground of GWS.
In November former Richmond and Brisbane star Craig Lambert was appointed the club’s first Football and Welfare Manager. The club also announced a 10-year partnership with the ACT government which would see GWS play 30 premiership season matches and 10 pre-season games in Canberra over the next decade.
On November 16, 2010 Team GWS was officially launched as the Greater Western Sydney GIANTS with the colours orange and charcoal and the motto Think Big, Live Big, Play Big.
AFL Team of the Century full-back and ex-Carlton star Stephen Silvagni joined the GIANTS as the club’s List Manager and Port Adelaide premiership coach Mark Williams was named Senior Assistant Coach.
For the 2011 season the club was allowed to sign up to 12 17-year-olds born between January 1 and April 30, 1993 and received the first eight picks in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft. The club also had access to four NSW/ACT zone selections and two from the Northern Territory.
This saw 17-year-old access selections Tomas Bugg, Jeremy Cameron, Sam Darley, Tim Golds, Josh Growden, Jack Hombsch, Dylan Shiel, Adam Treloar, Gerald Ugle and Nathan Wilson arrive at the club.
Zone selections Kurt Aylett, Josh Bruce, Shaun Edwards, Curtly Hampton, Anthony Miles, Sam Schulz, Tim Segrave, Jacob Townsend and Mark Whiley were also signed to the club as well as Rookie Draft picks Steve Clifton, Jonathan Giles, Rhys Cooyou and Andrew Phillips.
In 2011 the club played its first game in the NAB Cup against Sydney and the Gold Coast before playing the rest of the season in the North-Eastern AFL second-tier competition (NEAFL).
In August 2011 the club signed it’s 10,000th member before playing an AFL game. Ahead of the 2012 season, the club’s first year in the AFL, the club were able to sign up to 16 current AFL players who were un-contracted for the 2012 season. The GIANTS were also given the first selection in each round of the 2011 NAB AFL Draft as well as picks 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13 and 14 in the first round of the draft.
In August 2011 young Adelaide defender Phil Davis became the first un-contracted player to indicate he would sign with the club. On September 5, 2011 Western Bulldogs midfielder Callan Ward became the first un-contracted player to officially join the GIANTS. 2008 NAB AFL Rising Star Rhys Palmer announced he was leaving Fremantle to join the GIANTS on September 7.
The next day, Davis became the club’s third signing. On September 12 former number one draft pick Tom Scully announced he was leaving the Melbourne Demons to join the GIANTS while former Melbourne captain James McDonald announced he was coming out of retirement to play with the side in 2012 and also take up an assistant coaching role. Bulldog Sam Reid joined former teammate Callan Ward at the GIANTS in October.
That month also saw the GIANTS complete trades to secure triple Brisbane Lions premiership star Luke Power and Port Adelaide premiership veterans Chad Cornes and Dean Brogan, with the trio all also having coaching roles at the club.
The 2011 NAB AFL Draft was held on November 24 in Sydney with the GIANTS selecting Eastern Ranges forward Jonathon Patton with the number one pick.
The club also added fellow first-round picks Stephen Coniglio, Dom Tyson, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Matt Buntine, Nick Haynes, Adam Tomlinson, Liam Sumner, Toby Greene, Taylor Adams, Devon Smith as well as Tom Downie later in the draft.
Recruits Callan Ward and Phil Davis and veteran Luke Power were named as the three co captains of the GIANTS for the 2012 season.
The club played it’s first game in the Australian Football League as a stand-alone fixture on March 24 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park in front of 38,203 fans.
The Sydney Swans 14.16 (100) def. GWS GIANTS 5.7 (37) by 63-points. Co-captain Callan Ward kicked the first-ever goal for the League’s 18th team.
GWS GIANTS 2012 Round 1 Team
B: Tomas Bugg, Phil Davis, Adam Kennedy
HB: Jack Hombsch, Tim Mohr, Will Hoskin-Elliott
C: Rhys Palmer, Callan Ward, Chad Cornes
HF: Nathan Wilson, Israel Folau, Stephen Coniglio
F: Curtly Hampton, Jeremy Cameron, Devon Smith
Foll: Jonathan Giles, Dylan Shiel, James McDonald
I/C: Jacob Townsend, Toby Greene, Adam Tomlinson, Dom Tyson
The club’s first win came in Round 7 on May 12, 2012 against fellow expansion side the Gold Coast Suns in the club’s second home in Canberra.
A four-goal final quarter saw the GIANTS run out 27-point winners for their first ever victory.
The club registered their second win, a 34-point victory over Port Adelaide, at the Sydney Showgrounds in Round 19 in Kevin Sheedy's 1000th game as a player and coach.The club finished 18th with two wins for the season.
Co-captain Callan Ward was the club’s inaugural Kevin Sheedy Medal winner as the club’s Best and Fairest player with young forward Jeremy Cameron the club’s leading goalkicker with 29 goals.
After playing 13 games for the club, Israel Folau left the club to pursue a career in Rugby Union while James McDonald and Luke Power retired to take up full-time coaching roles with the club.
Former Bulldogs and Richmond player and Bulldogs and Hawthorn Assistant Coach Leon Cameron joined the club as Senior Assistant Coach to replace Mark Williams with Cameron set to take over from Sheedy after the 2013 season.
The club traded in Stephen Gilham from Hawthorn and Bret Thronton from Carlton and added five top draft picks including Lachie Whitfield (number one), Jono O’Rourke (number two), Lachie Plowman (number three), Kristian Jaksch (number 12) and Aidan Corr (number 14).
With Power retired, Callan Ward and Phil Davis were named joint co-captains with Tom Scully elevated to vice-captain.
The GIANTS only won one game for the 2013 season, beating the Melbourne Demons in Round 19 in Sydney.
Jeremy Cameron was a standout for the season, kicking 62 goals to finish third in the Coleman Medal, be named in the All-Australian team and take out the Kevin Sheedy Medal for the club’s Best and Fairest.
At the end of the 2013 season, after coaching 678 games, including 44 games at the GIANTS, Kevin Sheedy handed the coaching reins to Leon Cameron for the 2014 season.
In the 2014 off-season the GIANTS added premiership stars Heath Shaw, Shane Mumford and Josh Hunt as well as former Bulldog Dylan Addison and Swan Jed Lamb to the club.
The GIANTS with the number one and number two selections in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft also selected Eastern Ranges forward Tom Boyd and Sandringham Dragons midfielder Joshua Kelly.
This coincided with the club moving in to their new state of the art training facility at Sydney Olympic Park. The $11.5m Learning Life Centre includes an indoor training field, gymnasium and running track and overlooks the GIANTS' training oval, Tom Wills Oval.
The 2014 season started with a bang with the GIANTS beating cross-town rivals the Sydney Swans 15.9 (99) to 9.13 (67) in the first round in Sydney.
The GIANTS finished the year with six ones, their most in history, and ticked off a number of important milestones along the way.
2014 saw the GIANTS win interstate for the first time when they beat Brisbane, had back-to-back wins for the first time, won on the MCG for the first time against Melbourne in Round 21 by their highest-ever margin and capped off the year with a thrilling win over the Western Bulldogs, their first at Etihad Stadium.
Jeremy Cameron finished the year as the leading goal kicker with 29 goals while ruckman Shane Mumford won the 2014 Kevin Sheedy Medal for Club Champion in his first year after crossing from the Swans.
2015 saw the GIANTS surpass their previous best seasons, finishing with 11 wins. For much of the season they were firmly in the finals race, even when injuries to several key players made the going tough in the second half of the year.
Some of the highlights of the season included a win over the reigning premiers, Hawthorn, at home in round six, defeating their bogey team in Adelaide and selling out StarTrack Oval in Canberra for the first time.
Vice-captain Heath Shaw was the undisputed star of the year, winning the Kevin Sheedy Medal and earning All Australian honours for the first time. Jeremy Cameron again finished the season as the GIANTS' Leading Goal Kicker for the fourth year in a row and was also an All Australian nominee.
Co-captain Callan Ward capped off a consistent year, finishing the GIANTS' best in the Brownlow Medal in eighth place with 19 votes, the highest of all the club captains.
Season 2016 was a year of milestones for the young GIANTS. On-field, the club enjoyed their most successful season yet, reaching a Preliminary Final after finishing fourth at the end of the Premiership season. Beating reigning Premier Hawthorn at home by 75-points was a significant moment, as were the back-to-back wins over the Swans at home later in the season and in the Qualifying Final in front of more than 60,000 fans in Sydney.
For the first time the club had multiple All Australian representatives with vice-captain Heath Shaw and young forward Toby Greene recognised for outstanding seasons. It was a changing of the guard as Greene also took out the 2016 Kevin Sheedy Medal.
Off the field club continued to grow significantly with membership passing 15,000 for the very first time as well as huge uplifts in TV ratings and game attendances with sell-outs in both Sydney and Canberra. The GIANTS also became one of just eight clubs in the inaugural AFL Women's League for 2017 and the only club in NSW/ACT. 2016 also saw the GIANTS begin a strategic partnership with the new team in the Suncorp Super Netball League, GIANT Netball.
The off-season saw the GIANTS welcome former Richmond star Brett Deledio to the club as well as a new wave of GIANTS Academy players at the NAB AFL Draft and number two draft pick Tim Taranto.