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Support act: Giants hoping for fans to find voice against Dogs

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It might not be close to the sort of volume that fans in traditional AFL states can generate, but Giants supporters seem to have come to the collective realisation that they are not just passive bystanders and actually have a role to play in what happens on the field.

When they feel their team has been stitched up by the umpires, they become agitated. When an opposition player does something they feel is out of order – like Marcus Bontempelli’s bump on Nick Haynes a fortnight ago – they start booing. And when the team gets a roll on, you can hear it.

It’s all very basic stuff, but according to injured co-captain Callan Ward, that’s because so many GWS fans are novices – newcomers or converts from other codes who, only now, have got their heads around the natural rhythms of an AFL match, and how they fit in.

“We’ve got members who probably didn’t know too much about AFL when we first started,” said Ward, who has spent most of this season working from the interchange bench, in much closer proximity to fans.

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“They weren’t passionate about it. But eight years later, they actually know the game quite well and they’ve learned a lot about AFL.

“I meet so many people in the west of Sydney, and Sydney in general, who say ‘I didn’t know one thing about AFL, but I jumped on board the Giants and I love it now, it’s such a good sport.’

“Our fans have just learned about AFL and understand AFL a lot more, they can actually support and be more vocal on game day.”

GWS veteran Heath Shaw distinctly remembers the din of the Bulldogs army in 2016 and the way it overwhelmed the noise generated by the home fans.

“There were probably just as many Bulldogs people as there were Giants people. And there was a fair bit of banter coming from the Bulldogs cheer squad – they’ve got a long memory as well,” Shaw said.

“But our support has definitely grown. People take more of an interest in us now. You could probably fake it for the first few years we were in existence but we’ve become a relevant team.

“Our club is very open – we’d let anyone in to come and see what we do behind the scenes. All that open access, it makes people more passionate about the club.

“They feel like they’re involved and a part of it, they get emotionally attached to it, and on game day it’s like they’re out there with a say.”

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