A Giants win would go down well with Canberra fans, Andrew Barr says
Canberrans still feel the pain of the North Melbourne Kangaroos' mercenary cash grab in the capital, but the GWS Giants are planting "deep and lasting roots" to rebuild the AFL relationship, according to deputy chief minister Andrew Barr.
The Kangaroos will return to Canberra on Saturday for the first time since 2006, when the club turned its back on the ACT government to chase bigger money on the Gold Coast.
The Giants are three years into a 10-season, $23 million deal with the government to play three premiership matches at Manuka Oval.
The Kangaroos sold 18 games to Canberra over seven seasons before their abrupt departure left a bitter taste in the mouths of the capital's AFL community.
"I think there's a bit of extra spark to this game, given the history," Mr Barr said.
"There is still a bit of hurt around the North Melbourne experience. We're on our way to forgiving them, but a Giants win would go down well with the majority of Canberra fans.
"The difference with the Giants is there's a long commitment ... Canberra is in the Giants' recruitment region and they're not being imported from Melbourne.
"It's not as mercenary, I think there are deep and lasting roots that you get with a 10-year commitment ... this is clearly a better outcome than bringing Melbourne teams into Canberra on an ad hock basis."
The Giants launched a "thank you Canberra" campaign on Tuesday to recognise the capital's support.
Former Giants coach Kevin Sheedy implored Canberra fans to "boo the Roos" for the match when the fixture was announced last year.
Sheedy has since softened his stance, but said the Kangaroos made a "dumb decision" to walk out on Canberra.
"I recognise there are some people that the only thing they'll accept is a team entirely from Canberra, but the city isn't big enough," Mr Barr said.
"There may come a time in the future when we are big enough, but this is about what we're doing in the interim.
"And it gives the government security in deciding to invest in Manuka, and cricket also benefits from that with the ability to now host international matches and the Big Bash finals.
"Without the long-term commitment from the Giants, you couldn't justify the investment in Manuka ... I've got no doubt this is the correct long-term approach."
The Giants have won four games this season and are 16th on the ladder.
Injured midfielder and former No.2 draft pick Stephen Coniglio said the Giants considered Canberra a "home away from home".
The Giants secured their maiden AFL win in Canberra when they beat the Gold Coast Suns in 2012.
"We love coming to Canberra ... our partnership shows it's not about cash," Coniglio said.
"It's not just three or four games we have down here, there are pre-season camps and community camps down in Canberra.
"From everything I've seen it's more of a relationship with Canberra rather than it being a cash grab down here."
Coniglio will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on his thumb in June.
But the 20-year-old is confident the Giants can challenge the sixth-placed Kangaroos and get their fifth win of the year.
"As players and a club I think we're going in the right direction, that's the genuine feeling," Coniglio said.
"We know it's going to take time, but we don't want it to take too much time. Definitely I think we can poach a win against the Kangaroos."
AFL ROUND 20
Saturday: GWS Giants v North Melbourne at Manuka Oval, 1.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek