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Classic Matches: Birth of a rivalry

Peter Blucher  April 21, 2017 1:45 PM

Swans coach John Longmire and vice-captain Luke Parker pose alongside Giants coach Leon Cameron and captain Callan Ward.

Swans coach John Longmire and vice-captain Luke Parker pose alongside Giants coach Leon Cameron and captain Callan Ward.

The rivalry between the Sydney Swans and the Greater Western Sydney Giants is the youngest in the AFL, but already it is one of the most fierce.

It was officially born on Saturday night March 24, 2012, when the Swans and the Giants met for the first time in official competition at Stadium Australia – now ANZ Stadium – the home of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. 

But in reality it was alive and well from the moment in January 2008 the AFL registered the name “Western Sydney Football Club Ltd” with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, foreshadowing the formation of a second team in Sydney.

No longer would the Swans fly the AFL flag solo in the New South Wales capital.

Overnight it became personal between one of the oldest and proudest AFL clubs, who since 1982 had blazed a trail in the long-time unchartered Sydney market, and the youngest.

Like the Perth rivalry between the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers, the Adelaide rivalry between the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide Power, and the Queensland rivalry between the Brisbane Lions and the Gold Coast Suns, and various rivalries in Victoria, it became something special.

As the Google definition of the word “rivalry” says, it is all about “competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field”.

The “field” is Australia’s biggest sporting competition in Australia’s biggest city. And the “objective” in simple everyday terms is “bragging rights”.

Or, as Google describes it, a “temporary position of ascendancy in a closely contested rivalry”.

The Swans, officially inaugurated on June 19, 1874 and a foundation member of the AFL (formerly the VFL) as South Melbourne Football Club in 1897, assumed the ascendancy when they won the first meeting with the AFL’s 18th team 14.16 (100) to 5.7 (37) in front of a crowd of 38,203.

From the moment Swans midfielder Kieren Jack goaled 81 seconds into the first Sydney Derby to open the scoring it was all about us and them.

For the record, Sydney’s John Longmire was opposed to GWS counterpart Kevin Sheedy in the coaching box, and Sydney co-captains Adam Goodes and Jarrad McVeigh were matched against GWS counterparts Phil Davis and Callan Ward after Luke Power, the third member of the Giants’ captaincy unit, was ruled unfit.

Teams for the first Sydney Derby were:

B: Nick Smith, Ted Richards, Nick Malceski
HB: Alex Johnson, Heath Grundy, Jarrad McVeigh
C: Lewis Jetta, Josh Kennedy, Dan Hanneberry
HF: Jude Bolton, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Craig Bird
F: Sam Reid, Adam Goodes, Ben McGlynn
R: Shane Mumford, Luke Parker, Kieren Jack
INT: Gary Rohan, Marty Mattner, Harry Cunningham, Andrejs Everitt

B: Tomas Bugg, Phil Davis, Tim Mohr
HB: Israel Folau, Adam Tomlinson, Jack Hombsch
C: Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio, Rhys Palmer
HF: Will Hoskin-Elliot, Chad Cornes, Devon Smith
F:  Toby Greene, Jeremy Cameron, Adam Kennedy
R: Jonathan Giles, Callan Ward, James McDonald
INT: Jacob Townsend, Curtley Hampton, Nathan Wilson, Dom Tyson

AFL 2012 Rd 01 - GWS Giants v Sydney

Harry Cunningham debuted in red and white as Goodes played his 301st game in a Swans team, which boasted a combined AFL experience of 2080 games.

The Giants debuted no less than 17 players as former Melbourne veteran James McDonald and ex-Port Adelaide stalwart Chad Cornes contributed a combined 492 games to their team’s total experience of 643 games.

Jack, with 30 possessions, topped the Sydney stats sheet from Craig Bird (27) and Josh Kennedy (27), while Adam Kennedy (28), Tomas Bugg (27) and Toby Greene (27) had most possessions for the Giants.

Bird, Kennedy and Lewis Jetta, each with two goals, were only the only multiple goal-kickers in a game in which Ward kicked the Giants’ first goal.

Swans midfielder Kennedy was judged best afield to win the Brett Kirk Medal, named in honour of the former Swans midfield champion, while the Brownlow Medal votes awarded by umpires Matt Stevic, Simon Meredith and Jacob Mollison went to Swans Kennedy (3), Jack (2) and Shane Mumford (1).

The Swans won the first four Sydney Derbies, including the first time the Derby was played at the SCG on July 14, 2013 – Sydney took that match by a record 129 points. Craig Bird played his 100th game for the Swans, McVeigh (35), Dan Hanneberry (34) and Nick Malceski (30) led the possession count, Kurt Tippett, Mike Pyke, Jesse White and Tom Mitchell kicked three goals apiece, and the Brownlow Medal votes went to McVeigh (3), Mitchell (2) and Malceski (1).

The Swans held bragging rights for 721 days until the Giants scored their first win over “big brother” by 32 points in Sydney Derby V – the first Derby played at the Sydney Showgrounds, home of the expansion club – on March 15, 2014.

On that occasion Luke Parker (23), Rhyce Shaw (22) and Kennedy (22) had the most possessions for the Swans, McGlynn was the club’s only multiple goal-kicker with two, and Lance Franklin and Jeremy Laidler played their first game in red and white.

Adam Treloar (34), Ward (31) and Stephen Coniglio (27) led the GWS stats sheet, while Jeremy Cameron (4) and Jonathon Patton (3) headed the goal-kickers and Mumford (3), Coniglio (2) and Treloar (1) collected the Brownlow votes.

Thereafter it became really personal. Every time the teams met pride was on the line. Hugely so.

The first Derby sell-out was Sydney Derby IX at the Showgrounds – now Spotless Stadium – when Fox Footy reported it was the second-highest rating twilight match of the entire 2016 season.

After 11 official meetings between the Swans and the Giants the head-to-head record stands at 8-3 to the Swans.

It’s gone Swans-Swans-Swans-Swans-Giants-Swans-Swans-Swans-Swans-Giants-Giants.

The Swans have the 3-1 advantage at ANZ Stadium and are 4-0 at the SCG. It’s 2-1 to the Giants at Spotless Stadium.

History will show that the first meeting between the clubs in a final – Sydney Derby XI – went to the Giants by 36 points at ANZ Stadium in the 2016 qualifying final.

The Swans’ score of 24.27 (171) in Sydney Derby IV in Round 16, 2013 remains the highest score in a Sydney Derby, and their 129-point margin in the same game the biggest.

The GWS score in Sydney Derby I of 5.7 (37) remains the lowest in games between the clubs, and the finals crowd of 60,222 is the biggest to watch a Derby live.