Something very special is building in Western Sydney.
Saturday 20th February was one of my favourite days of the year – Fan Day. But not just one Fan Day. This year, I attended both Parramatta Eels Fan Day and GWS Giants Fan Day in one day. You might say I was in fan engagement heaven.
I am a regular fixture at Parramatta Eels Fan Day and have been for several years now. It is a good opportunity to catch up with my friends at the Club, the Club’s fantastic fans and members and to personally welcome new players to the blue and gold. It’s also a great chance to have a new poster signed for my office at work and to have a smiley photo with my favourite players (big thanks to Michael Gordon for his big smile on the day).
This year did not disappoint.
Despite the Parramatta Eels having over 20,000 members in 2015 (and looking to scale even bigger heights this year), I am always impressed by how excited the players are to meet their fans. With big smiles from the likes of Tim Mannah, Michael Gordon, Isaac de Gois and Junior Paulo, despite the thousands of people in attendance, fans had ample opportunity to meet their heroes in the blue and gold. Fan Day is done well and is done with the aim of making sure that all of the Parramatta Eels members feel part of what is the Blue and Gold Army (and quite a formidable force in the NRL).
I left Parramatta fan day with a big smile on my face and very excited for the year ahead.
Then I went to GWS Giants Fan Day – but it was, different.
It reminded me very much of Sydney Thunder Fan Day and this got me thinking.
Something is building in Western Sydney with both of these teams, neither of which quite have the following of the Parramatta Eels… yet.
Both the GWS Giants and Sydney Thunder have much smaller membership bases than the Parramatta Eels. Despite this, their membership bases are passionate, adore their team and are growing each and every year.
This year the Sydney Thunder had 5,000 members – how many more will this be next year following the success of the WBBL and BBL teams?
At GWS Fan Day the lines were not as long as at Parramatta Eels Fan Day, but the people that were there were enamoured with their heroes in orange.
It was very family focused with ample opportunities for kids to just have a good time. Shane Mumford getting dunked by a little girl in a princess outfit was a particular highlight, as was the petting zoo where I met a very cute little piglet named George.
The Sydney Thunder and GWS Giants both recognise the importance of the next generation to their fan bases. Particularly touching was at GWS Giants Fan Day where it was children aged between 3-8 that presented their GWS Giants heroes with their guernsey’s. These kids are the future of AFL and after presenting guernsey’s to their Giants heroes, will be fans for life.
And isn’t that exactly what we want? The next generation of fan to feel part of something from the moment they put their teams jersey/guernsey on?
The smaller scale of GWS Giants Fan Day meant that there was a real community focus to the day and I get the feeling that those fans who were there from the beginning will remember such Fan Days with fondness as the GWS Giants continue to grow.
Western Sydney is an area which will grow tremendously in population size over the next few years. We are already a part of Sydney that adores sport and with an even bigger population, I think it is only a matter of time before GWS Giants Fan Day and Sydney Thunder Fan Day are as formidable in size as Parramatta Eels Fan Day.
I just hope that no matter how big we grow, no matter how much success we have, no matter how many trophies in the cabinet, we remember the importance of community and giving back to fans. Because after all, aren’t we the most important part of all?
Ladies who Leap xxx