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 that year 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,” then 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 that year former Richmond and Brisbane player 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 games 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) and one game in the 2011 Foxtel Cup competition.
In August 2011 the club signed its 10,000th member before playing an AFL game. Ahead of the 2012 season, the club’s first year in the AFL, the club was 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.