They played in front of sparse crowds for a team many in Sydney did not care for while their contemporaries plied their trade for established clubs before full houses in the game’s heartland.
Then there were the facilities. Pre-season sessions were conducted on a baseball field because cricket authorities wouldn’t let them on the main ground at Blacktown. The gym was in a portable placed in the middle of a car park, their change rooms and offices also temporary before the move in 2014 to their new headquarters at Sydney Olympic Park.
In 2011, the year before their introduction to the AFL, players practiced picking up ground balls on the top floor of the Rooty Hill RSL.
“We thought it was just normal to be training on a baseball pitch having no facilities at all,” the Giants’ star forward Jeremy Cameron said.
Another foundation Giant, Adam Tomlinson, remembers the power going out at Blacktown.
“We found out a few days later someone had taken the copper out of the power box around the corner because they wanted to sell it,” Tomlinson said.
The decision to house their recruits in apartments at Breakfast Point, a gated community not far from the club’s home ground, proved a masterstroke.
It allowed the players, many of them in their first or second years out of school, to live together, share experiences and build bonds. They have now found their own digs in their favourite pockets of Sydney but the club still uses Breakfast Point for their draftees.
Victorian clubs had believed western Sydney would provide fertile ground for their poaching expeditions and though many Giants have left the club prides itself on retaining the stars they wanted. Of the 49 from their inaugural AFL season, 15 are on another list.
Seven of the 11 originals are in the Giants side for their first grand final.
Orange hearts are broken for co-captain Callan Ward and vice-captain Stephen Coniglio, both heart and soul figures who have driven the club’s culture as they morphed from easybeats to world beaters. Both are injured.
Many tipped a dynasty for the Giants due to what other clubs believed were overly generous draft concessions but it has taken until season eight for their first appearance on the last Saturday in September.
A flag is likely to be received with indifference by football fans in Victoria who believe they are a manufactured club favoured by head office. But for the players who have been there since day dot it will be reward for their resilience, commitment and loyalty.
“To be a part of the culture and something that has built up over the years is truly special,” star defender Nick Haynes said. “We have a special bond us boys that will last forever.”
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald