BY Paul Roos From: Herald Sun March 30, 2013 12:00AM
Callan Ward and Kieren Jack to promote the “Battle of the Bridge”. Picture: Craig Greenhill The Daily Telegraph
YOU could sense the displeasure this week when Swans players and coaches were asked about tonight’s game against Greater Western Sydney
It has been marketed as the “Battle of the Bridge”, giving the false impression that the Swans aren’t Sydney’s team.
The Swans have worked tirelessly over 30 years to develop into a team of which the whole of NSW can be proud.
There is simply no divide when it comes to the club and I am sure fans will not fall for the slogan.
In my time at the club, I was inspired by the stories of the Swans pioneers who literally were dropped into a “foreign” AFL city and left to fend for themselves.
I am sure many of these individuals would be miffed at the current marketing campaign.
No one in football begrudges the Giants having a much smoother path into the competition, as we must learn from the past and must give these young men opportunities to be successful.
However, the Giants must develop their own culture and supporters by increasing the awareness of AFL throughout NSW.
If all they do is try to poach Swans supporters and not grow the AFL, the experiment will be a failure.
The Sydney market, as they will now be well aware, is tough.
As a second-year team, fans will be looking for a significant improvement.
There is much hype in Sydney about the Giants, most of it generated by the club.
Kevin Sheedy has certainly never been a coach to shy away from expectation.
Most AFL pundits believe the Giants are much better placed than the Suns, but we must remember the Suns won more games in their first season than GWS.
In their second year the Suns didn’t get anywhere near the improvement people expected.
This clearly is the first challenge the Giants must overcome.
The optimism about the Giants is based largely on their talls, when comparing them to the Suns.
Jonathon Patton and Jeremy Cameron are seen as significantly better than any of the young Suns bigs.
Patton led the side in scoreboard impact during the NAB Cup and one would think he is in for a good year.
The body shape of the young Giants looked more suited to the rigours of AFL even in their rookie year of 2012.
Toby Greene was a classic example of a young Giant who coped well with the game’s physical nature.
Last year, the Giants looked to have some very talented young players. In most games they were able to compete well for 15-20 minutes a quarter and then dropped off significantly, which cost them dearly.
You need to bear in mind that these young players come from competitions in which they were running 10km a game.
Now they are required to run about 16km.
Improvement in this area takes time and you’d think that after another full pre-season they will be more able to compete for longer.
Tonight is their first test and it’s against the reigning premiers.
The Swans go in somewhat underdone and coach John Longmire will know the Giants will be fitter than last year.
Sydney’s trademark is still its ability to restrict opposition scores and that will be its priority tonight.
The big challenge to the Giants is to score enough to keep them in the game.
Last year, the Swans were ranked No.1 in tackles. They allowed their opposition to record a disposal efficiency of 69.6 per cent, the lowest percentage conceded by any side.
They allowed their opposition to score a goal from just 21.5 per cent of inside 50s last season – again the lowest percentage conceded by any side.
The Swans absorb pressure and weather opposition momentum better than any team in the competition.
Their ability to do this and then score quickly on the rebound made them not only a tremendous defensive team but a dangerous offensive opponent.
We now have two teams in Sydney and both are here to stay. The Swans have shown time and again they are in for the long haul and the Giants, with the support of the AFL, eventually will succeed.
However, this game is not the Battle of the Bridge – it is a battle between a team that has found an identity in Sydney against a team that must find its own.