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Giant inroads in the Sydney Derby

Although the Sydney Derby is into its fifth year, the Sydney and GWS rivalry has been a one-sided contest.

The Swans have won seven of their eight games – which used to be known as “The Battle of the Bridge”, including the past three.

But the Giants of 2016 are no the young easy-beats they once were when they came into the competition.

Since making their AFL debut in the 2012 season opener against the Swans, Greater Western Sydney’s average losing margin against John Longmire’s men is 66 points.

But excluding the most recent thrashing in Round 21 last year, their recent performances have been more competitive.

Arguably the Giants’ greatest win was their coming-of-age 32-point win over the Swans in the opening round of 2014.

The rivalry continues to build and the players too feel there is a different context to the game that decides AFL bragging rights in New South Wales.

We spoke to some of the men who will run out onto the SCG for Sydney Derby IX.

Devon Smith (Greater Western Sydney)

AFL 2015 Rd 03 - Sydney v GWS Giants

“I think it was about us being the little brother, which we never really liked, and now we’ve arrived in the competition and it’s such an even competition that anyone can win on any day.

“I always look forward to playing in the Battle of the Bridge and I know most of my teammates do also.

“I remember a few things when we played earlier on – which I won’t repeat – but I’ll remember those for the rest of my career. There are a few things with the way they treated us when we first came into the competition that hold us in good stead now, but it was probably because we were the younger team.”

Josh Kennedy (Sydney)

AFL 2015 Rd 03 - Sydney v GWS Giants

“I certainly think there’s a bit more feeling in the game when we come up against them – especially in the last couple of years since they knocked us over in 2014.

“They always want to make a statement and they’re not here to make up the numbers. We still want to feel like we’re the best team in Sydney.

“It’s something that’s natural, really. We’re both competing for supporters and members which flows onto the field and competing for wins and being the superior team in Sydney. A lot of it is driven by upstairs and the media but it’s certainly felt down at ground level.

“They’re not a bad sledging team – they’re actually pretty good but that comes with becoming a quality team. Beating Geelong — and they should’ve defeated Melbourne if they kicked straight — they could’ve been two and zip.

“I feel their recruiting since the beginning – I’m not sure what their philosophy was – but it seemed like they recruited strong bodies and tough, aggressive players and that’s reflective in the way they play because they’re pretty good at winning the contested ball. It’s always been a strength of theirs.”

Callan Ward (Greater Western Sydney)

AFL 2015 Rd 03 - Sydney v GWS Giants

“I think it’s definitely building. We might have played it up in the first few years but now I think the players genuinely do believe there is a rivalry and the fans are starting to get amongst it as well.

“As well as aiming to be the best team in Australia, you also want to be the best team in the state. I think with us being a new side and Sydney being there for almost 30 years, the Swans probably thought we were trying to take over their state, so that’s probably where it started from.

“I think it’s a game the players really look forward too. As a footy club they’re so well respected by the whole of the AFL and I think the fans can see that too. The way they go about playing footy as a team is incredible. They have really good players who love to win the contested ball and play football the right way – that hard and tough brand of footy – and the Swans have always done that.

“In a way we’ve kind of looked up to them and that’s why we love playing against the Swans – it’d be nice to be thought of the way Sydney are.”

Nick Smith (Sydney)

“They’re not just a young group with talent anymore, they’ve got some bigger bodies and run really well with a number of mids.”

Harry Cunningham (Sydney)

“We know what they’re going to bring – they’re fierce at the contest. They always apply a lot of pressure around the footy.”