On several occasions this season, you’ve written open letters to various people in footy. Today, on behalf of the members and supporters of GWS Giants, it’s time to repay the favour.
Having a new club starting from scratch, and seeing it develop from a concept to a reality has been quite an adventure. From a proposal, to Team GWS, and the launch at the Showground pavilion where the Giants name and colours were unveiled. A year in the NEAFL, and finally our club took its place in the AFL.
There were sceptics and doubters. There were those who thought an AFL team in Greater Western Sydney could never happen. But there are people with a vision, a dream and a plan. And so the Giants were born.
From a personal perspective, I was thrilled when you were appointed as Coach. I’d been an Essendon supporter, but having lived in Sydney for over 20 years, I was interested in the new team being formed.
I’d seen first-hand what you had to offer. From the days when, as a kid, my Dad used to take me to Windy Hill to see the Bombers play. Four premierships. Making the finals more often than not.
But it was not just innovative on-field tactics. I’d seen your vision to grow our game, your willingness to spread the word of the game in Sydney. Your ability to create interest and generate publicity, and thought-provoking lines out of left field to keep the club and the games in the headlines.
For a new club, away from the heartland of the game, it was a perfect fit.
Building a new club, players had to be recruited; and the club’s recruiting staff scoured the country to bring a playing list together. And so the players came. Some chose to come, some were drafted. They were young; talented but inexperienced. Most were leaving home for the first time to move interstate.
It’s been quite a challenge to mould these kids into a football team. Taking the fight up to teams much bigger, older and more experienced, who have been playing together for years. Sometimes they’ve been competitive; sometimes they’ve been well beaten. But always they’ve kept trying hard, trying to improve themselves, learning from the experience.
There are signs that the team is turning the corner. The future looks bright.
For us as supporters, it’s been quite an experience. Being a new club, we don’t have the long tradition of support. We don’t have the love of the club passed down from one generation to the next.
Some of us come from AFL backgrounds, who have made the hard decision to change our allegiance and support the Giants. Others have never seriously followed AFL before, but have taken the plunge into AFL by throwing their support behind the Giants.
We’ve bought the memberships. We’ve bought the merchandise. We come to the games. We cheer for the team. The cheer squad raise the banner. The crowd join in as we make noise to lift the team. But we keep coming, even through heavy defeat after heavy defeat. Because we believe in this team, in this club. We’ve formed a connection with the club. Strength in adversity, and hope in the future to come. We’re behind you, and behind the players, all the way.
And although the numbers of supporters may be modest compared to other clubs, that will grow in time. The supporter base grows with the club.
And when the wins come, we celebrate them. Amazing scenes at Skoda Stadium at the game against Melbourne; and although the crowd was just over 8,000, it sounded much more. As the “Here come the Giants” chant reverberated around the stadium, it sent an ominous warning to the rest of the competition. Skoda Stadium will be a cauldron when the wins come more often and the stadium begins to fill.
Kevin, the game has changed enormously during your time coaching the game. In your first year at the Bombers, there were 12 teams, all in Victoria.
27 years at Essendon, and the first two years of GWS’s AFL existence. Four premierships, many other finals. Coaching at 25 grounds, including the first ever game at five venues. There have been plenty of players that have become greats under your coaching; and some Giant greats of the future have got their start under your coaching.
The succession plan is in place. The club’s future is in good hands with Leon Cameron taking over from next season. He’s making plans to build on what you’ve created and take the club to bigger and better places.
As your coaching career draws to a close; we, the supporters, thank you for your efforts. For your vision in taking on the Giants’ coaching job and making the club a reality. And for laying the foundations of the era of success to come. As we, the supporters of the Giants, drink the water of future success; we remember and pay tribute to he who dug the well.
Thank you Kevin, and good luck for your future. We’re sure the Giants will always hold a place in your heart, as you do in ours.
The Orange Army and supporters of GWS Giants.