CEO of the AFL Andrew Demetriou announcing that he will step down from the role later in the year. Pictured with wife Symone and kids, Alexandra, Mattea, Sacha and Francesca. Photo: Penny Stephens
AFL Hall of Famer Kevin Sheedy says Andrew Demetriou ''got rid of the promises and made it happen'' in Canberra.
Greater Western Sydney boss David Matthews felt the Essendon supplements saga, which led to Canberra and Essendon legend James Hird getting a one-year suspension, wouldn't affect Demetriou's ACT legacy.
Kevin Sheedy with Andrew Demetriou. Photo: Ben Rushton
But ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr, who brokered a $23 million, 10-year deal for Greater Western Sydney to play three home-and-away games at Manuka Oval every year with the AFL chief executive, said the improved infrastructure at Manuka was the real legacy and had set the ACT up to host not only more football, but top-level cricket as well.
Barr has already held talks with Demetriou's likely successor Gillon McLachlan about the AFL investing in the next stage of Manuka's redevelopment that will see the oval integrated into the Manuka precinct.
He wants to use the AFL's connections to help fund a project, similar to what is planned for an indoor Civic stadium.
''We've now begun those discussions with Gil McLachlan around what other opportunities might present themselves in future phases of development,'' Barr told Fairfax Media.
''I think their commitment to Canberra is clear and it took Andrew Demetriou as chief executive to make it happen.''
Before the Giants were born in 2012, the ACT government bought games off several AFL clubs on a yearly basis.
First, North Melbourne called Canberra its home-away-from-home until it left after the 2006 season and went on a cash grab to the Gold Coast instead.
Then Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs took turns to sell their home games against the Sydney Swans and played them at Manuka until the Giants came to town.
Sheedy, who coached GWS for its first two seasons, said bringing the AFL's newest club to town would be Demetriou's legacy for football in the region.
''He got rid of promises and made it happen - the Giants are in Canberra,'' he said.
''Other clubs didn't come; he built the Giants and made them [play games at Manuka].''
The four-time premiership coach also said Demetriou had ''made the AFL the best competition in Australia''.
Matthews worked with Demetriou for the past 10 years and praised the AFL boss's ''leadership and decisiveness''.
He said the creation of the Giants had ''given the people of Canberra some certainty'' after a decade of taking whatever games they could get their hands on.
And Matthews felt GWS would be Demetriou's legacy to the people of the ACT.
But he didn't think the Essendon supplements saga would affect that legacy.
''[Demetriou] has shown a lot of courage in the way he's dealt with a variety of issues that have come at him over 11 years and none of them are easy - if they're easy, they'd never reach him,'' Matthews said.
''I don't think that anything's ever personal; it's about the circumstances and what's in the best interest of the game overall.
''You judge things in the fullness of time. There's been a number of difficult issues he's had to tackle over 11 years and I think his legacy will stand the test of time.''