I have lived in the western suburbs most of my life and have, weirdly to most people I know out here, liked Australian Rules football since the age of 7. The number of times I have copped the “fairy football”, “GayFL” and “Aerial Ping Pong” jibes, both at school and from adults has been more numerous than Tony Abbott exaggerations.
As a result of this, I am getting behind the GWS Giants push, even though I don’t really like the Giants name (I thoughts Rangers or even Gladiators would have been better). I like the idea of a team that will eventually draw players and supporters from the western suburbs. There are people who suggest that the new team will snatch supporters away from the Swans (like me), but in all honesty, getting out to the SCG for most home games is a real pain. Homebush is a great central venue. But, of course, it is early days and there is a lot of apathy and disinterest to resist for the team.
This cause is helped, or not helped, by the likes of Eddie McGuire. Today, in order to gain some more ratings for his underperforming MMM show (when will they realise it’s the music that sucks, not the presenters…), he decided to call Western Sydney “the land of the falafel” – which quickly spread to other media outlets. I was immediately bemused by the comment, not least because you don’t see many falafels sold in Penrith. More Maccas, Kebabs and KFC.
It was the implication behind the words that was more interesting, the one that life in Western Sydney is boring and hasn’t got variety in food or culture – hence driving any players for AFL teams away from the area. I found that a fairly extraordinary comment from the Chairman of Collingwood, a club that attracts pages such as this – indicating that there may not be a particularly vibrant culture connected to his club. In any case, footballers of any of the two major codes have rarely shown much interest in culture outside drinking, clubbing and having a BBQ with their mates. Western Sydney has that.
I also don’t think Eddie is contemplating his players frequenting bars like this one, which is right next to Collingwood, with its vegan meals and Victorian microbrews. If he was, then I could possibly understand his attempt to denigrate Western Sydney. But maybe Eddie is telling us that his players do like the cosmopolitan life of modern inner city Collingwood and its neighbour, Fitzroy. Footballers in Brunswick Street. That is progressive of him and his club.
If that is the case, I would suggest that if Alan Didak, Steele Sidebottom or Tyson Goldsack ever considered coming to the GWS Giants, there is a whole lot of Western Sydney food and culture which would act as a handy compensation for the loss of Brunswick Street. Perhaps they could live in the Lower Blue Mountains, where they could enjoy a morning Caffe Latte at Mash Cafe in Glenbrook. They could then take a trip down to their training at Blacktown Olympic Park, coming back for a lunch at the Log Cabin Hotel. Or on special occasions, they could eat dinner at Restaurant Como in Blaxland – they don’t serve falafels there. On the weekend, there is my favourite lunchtime venue in the west – Cafe Lewers, next to the Nepean.
Mind you, if it’s simpler fare they are after, Rooty Hill RSL, which is close to the training ground, has a great restaurant called Menu 33, which offers food that you don’t see in Melbourne’s poker machine venues. Rooty Hill RSL, like Panthers, has increasingly become an upmarket venue as the cash has continued to roll in. Eddie does need to see how the focus in Sydney football revenues is more about the leagues clubs than the football club.
In all seriousness, though, reading the coverage, however, it seems that Eddie is presenting two faces. To Sydney people, he is “just making a light hearted joke”, even if it shows a complete misunderstanding of where the club is situated. To Melbourne people, he is saying that Sydney people need to lighten up. No, Eddie, you need to actually come to Western Sydney and learn stuff before making lame, poorly directed jokes. Mind you, he is working for MMM – lame, poorly done jokes are their stock-in-trade since Tony Martin left.
It could also be a bizarre way for the AFL to get publicity for GWS, like Sheedy’s comments about Nathan Hindmarsh. This might work, who knows. But if GWS starts becoming successful, just wait for McGuire’s whinges about draft picks and salary caps. Again.