First, let me congratulate you on winning the premiership last year.
It was a brilliant effort in a sensational Grand Final. I thought Hawthorn was the team to beat last year and still do. So well done.
The GIANTS were thrilled you won because it is good for football in NSW. I even put on a Swans jumper and barracked for you. If you can't be there yourself it's always good to support the local team.
There's no doubt having a second team in Sydney has been great the AFL in Sydney. Look at the figures last year. Crowds up by 35 per cent. Membership up 30 per cent. TV ratings up 33 per cent. Participation up 8 per cent (up 27 per cent in Western Sydney).
We now have 11,000 members which we think is a pretty good effort for a second year club. I will be interested to see how big a lift the Swans get in membership this year. I would imagine there would be a lot more jumping on the bandwagon after winning a premiership.
Anyway, that was last year and this is this year. In just a few days from now the GIANTS will play the Swans in the opening round at ANZ Stadium.
I know the Swans don't like ANZ much but that's ok because we do. We expect to see all of you out there.
I know you don't officially unveil your premiership flag till round two but I'm sure you will want to get out and see your team play its first game of the year. Especially after winning a premiership and especially for a local derby. We think it's pretty exciting what we are building here.
I was lucky enough to attend the Manchester Derby before Christmas. What an event. We have to do something like that here in Sydney.
We already have the Derby in Perth and the Showdown in Adelaide so we thought the Battle of the Bridge in Sydney. That's the Anzac Bridge which connects the east and west of Sydney and also pays tribute to the Anzac legacy. East v West. Which side are you on?
I know there are some at the Swans who think the rivalry can't be manufactured but I am not sure what they mean by that. Aren't rivalries what sport is all about? Man U v Man City, Carlton v Collingwood, Swans v GIANTS. After all this is Australia's biggest city. Look at what the inclusion of the Wanderers has done for soccer in this city.
Josh Kennedy said last week that he didn't believe in the Battle of the Bridge. That's ok. He reckons the Swans are not just an eastern suburbs team and they have supporters all over Sydney.
Well, hopefully we will see that this Saturday. I know we are growing a strong support base not just in the west but also in the Hills and the Blue Mountains and our fans wouldn't miss this game wherever they live. They are passionate and dedicated. They are there week in and week out supporting their team.
I know you have had Sydney to yourselves for 30 years but we are here now and there is plenty of room for both us. You can even have your little corner in the east if you want. I am pretty happy with my view of the Parramatta River.
Make no mistake. This is a big game for us. As I said after our win against you in the NAB Cup, it will be a tough game and the Swans wouldn't want to treat us with any disrespect because we will smell that quickly. We all know this is a different proposition but I think the gap between the top and bottom will close quicker than a lot of people think.
Look at some of the match ups. Patton and Cameron v Goodes and Tippet. Sorry, I forgot he is suspended till round 12. What about Ward v Jack? Gee they look good on that poster on the back of Sydney buses.
There's a lot to look forward to. It's the start of the AFL season at our Olympic Stadium. Easter Saturday. The moment all footy fans have been waiting for all summer. In boxing terms it's the champion versus the challenger.
Can our young stars go to the next level? How will the reigning Premiers perform?
So put down your lattes, get out of the Coogee (or wherever you are), drive over the Anzac Bridge in your Range Rovers (I prefer a Skoda) and get out to the west and support your team. We have lattes over here too you know.
I'm excited. Are you?
See you Saturday.