Long-time coaches John Longmire and Leon Cameron both lamented this week the impact not having games in Sydney would have on the market.
More than 60,000 fans watched the two clubs play in the Giants’ maiden final in 2016 but attendances dropped off last year as it became apparent the Swans were on the decline.
Battling the economic downturn of the pandemic and lower on-field expectations, the Swans’ membership is down by 24 per cent, from last year’s record of 61,912 to 46,935, while the Giants have signed 27,316 after making the 2019 grand final, down marginally on their best of 30,108 last year.
Sheedy wants to see the Sydney derby become an ANZAC Day tradition, just as his former club Essendon and Collingwood have made the fixture their own in Melbourne. The game would most likely have to be played at night if given the go ahead.
Under his plan, the match would be known as the Battle for the Bridge, in reference to the ANZAC Bridge, and be held at the SCG, with members of the armed forces to be invited.
The two clubs have clashed over the naming of their games, with the Swans preferring the traditional moniker of the derby.
“The Battle of the Bridge is still the best game if they get it right and they haven’t got the guts and the courage to run it that way,” Sheedy told the Herald.
“Can someone get it right and make ANZAC Day one of the great days in Sydney for AFL by always having the Swans play the Giants on ANZAC Day?
“It would always be at SCG, should be full house, and the military invited.
“Just imagine a packed house with the army, navy and air force at the game. That’s my Dreamtime game for the Swans and the Giants.”
Sheedy said the third club in Sydney should be based in the city’s south-west but cannot see the AFL agreeing due to likely fierce opposition from Tasmania.
“I give the Giants 10 years and the AFL should have a plan for a third team in Sydney within a decade, even after COVID,” Sheedy said.
“There’s that much room for improvement in Sydney it’s a joke. If they bring a third team in the other two [Swans and Giants] will wake up again.
Sheedy accused the AFL, which is fighting the biggest financial crisis to hit the sport, of not being “adventurous” in its strategy for Sydney, and said Swans and Giants administrators were too nice.
“Marshmallow administrators right through the AFL, Swans and Giants they’re all marshmallows at the moment,” Sheedy said.
As Essendon coach, Sheedy famously labelled former North Melbourne executives Greg Miller and Mark Dawson “marshmallows”, which fuelled the two clubs’ rivalry in the late 1990s. Kangaroos fans responded by pelting him with the candy after North beat the Bombers in a final in 1998.
Harley laughed off the marshmallow line and agreed with Sheedy on the point of growing the code in NSW but held a different view on a third team in Sydney.
“At grass roots level participation numbers in NSW have grown substantially in the past decade, especially female participation,” Harley said. “But before we talk about more teams there is still plenty we need to do, which will require investment, particularly in facilities.”
The AFL did not comment but pointed to improved TV ratings in NSW and Queensland this year.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald