Western Sydney has long been an exclusive hotbed for rugby league and soccer.

However, AFL has steadily been making inroads into the region with much of that progress resulting from the success of the GIANTS Academy.

Since its inception in 2011, the Academy has seen more than 30 players drafted by AFL clubs.

Campbelltown’s Nick Shipley was the first Academy graduate from western Sydney to play for the GIANTS after making his debut in April, but there is plenty more local talent nipping at his heels.

Carlingford’s Kieren Briggs, 18, is a near-certainty to be drafted this year after being named ruckman in the under-18 All Australian team.

The Pennant Hills Demons junior was a rugby league and soccer fan but started playing Aussie rules when the GIANTS were formed.

GIANTS Academy head coach Jason Saddington said players such as Shipley, Briggs and Toongabbie’s James Peatling are evidence the club is succeeding in its mission to attract and nurture elite western Sydney talent.

“When the Academy was set up, the aim was to develop GIANTS talent in the ACT and western Sydney and bring players out of the local area,” Saddington said.

“We knew it might take a while, but we’re certainly pleased to see some results coming through. With Nick making his debut and two more boys in James and Kieren coming through, it really gives us the confidence that we know the talent is there.

“It’s just up to us to keep providing opportunities for these kids that they didn’t have before.”

This article first appeared in the Parramatta Advertiser and Northern District Times on Wednesday, July 18 titled ‘Ruckman Has GIANT Prospects’.