Lance "Buddy" Franklin

Canberra no show: Lance "Buddy" Franklin. Photo: Anthony Johnson

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has defended Sydney's decision to rest fit superstar Lance Franklin for its trip to Canberra.

Demetriou also gave his seal of approval for the GWS Giants to extend their 10-year partnership with the ACT and was confident there would be more Canberra players entering the AFL through the pathway system.

A crowd of 6854 attended Thursday night's pre-season match between the Giants and Swans, the first of four Giants games in Canberra this year.

Andrew Demetriou.

Andrew Demetriou. Photo: Simon Schluter

The appearance of Franklin would have likely boosted interest in the match, given the Swans were also missing regular stars Adam Goodes and Kurt Tippett.

But Demetriou said it was not the AFL's role to intervene on club decisions about selection.

''He's obviously being saved up for round one and that's their prerogative,'' Demetriou said.

''When you get to the real season we get great support from the visiting teams [to Canberra]. They do put their best teams forward and I wouldn't use the example of pre-season as a true gauge.''

The Giants are in the third year of a $26 million, 10-year agreement with the ACT government from 2012 to 2021.

They have attracted crowds in Canberra that are equal to or better than in western Sydney, but still face a battle for the sporting dollar.

The ACT Brumbies start their Super Rugby season with a huge Australian derby against the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night, and the Canberra Raiders are only a couple of weeks away from the start of the NRL.

Demetriou said the Giants had been an ''outstanding success'' in Canberra and a vast improvement on the previous affiliations with clubs such as North Melbourne and the Swans.

''The GWS Giants didn't enter into the agreement so they could have a 10-year final agreement - they want it to be a long relationship because they want to be regarded as Canberra's team,'' Demetriou said.

''They seem to have the best of both worlds - the support they get out of Canberra and the support they get out of greater Western Sydney.

''The fact the people in Canberra have their own team now and not a fly-in team has been welcomed.''

The Giants will return to Canberra this year to play the Western Bulldogs (round four), Port Adelaide (round seven) and North Melbourne (round 20).

The Giants have also set up an academy and have priority access to players from Canberra.

It is designed to increase the number of players from the region in the AFL.

''You will see the results of the academy in the next two, three and four years, because they have got them in there and need a few years of the academy training,'' Demetriou said.

''That will see more players produced out of NSW and the ACT.''