Kevin Sheedy is promising Canberra his Giants are here to stay.

Kevin Sheedy is promising Canberra his Giants are here to stay. Photo: Hamish Blair

Dear Canberra,

The Giants have just arrived in the nation’s capital but make no mistake - we’re here to stay. We know we have to work hard to earn the respect and trust of Canberra over the next decade and we intend to do just that.

Today we take on the Western Bulldogs in the inaugural Prime Minister’s Cup at Manuka Oval, our first battle for AFL premiership points in Canberra. I can’t wait for the ball to be bounced.

Canberra has a proud AFL heritage having produced the likes of Alex Jesaulenko and James Hird. I was lucky enough to played against Jezza and coached Hird - they are true champions of the game.

We’re aware people will be judging us on what we do on and off the field. I’ve got no problem with that, given what has gone before us. We need to be - will be - active participants in the local community.

That’s why I was so proud of the work our players and staff did during the community camp in Canberra last month. Visiting local schools and hospitals and hosting a superclinic for local kids.

I’ve often said how lucky Australia  is to have four football codes. The NRL and ARU have a done a great job promoting their games in Canberra and we believe there’s room for the Giants as well.

Only two weeks ago I visited Canberra to speak to more than 350 Catholic School principals. We need to engage with all schools in regions like Canberra and acknowledge what they do to educate our young people and also what they contribute to the development of sport.

One of those is Phil Davis, who was born in Canberra and attended Marist College. Phil is one of the Giants’ co-captains and a fine young man who spent a day in Canberra this week promoting junior sport and also his role as the ACT Ambassador for the National Year of Reading.

A lot of this sort of community work doesn’t get much publicity but is an integral part of any AFL club these days. It is critical to our success at the Giants.

We want to give young people of this region an opportunity to enjoy and play our game. Through work being done by AFL NSW-ACT staff we want to create pathways for players all the way from Auskick up to the elite level.

Today, Eastlake junior Josh Bruce will get to cherish an historic moment in front of family and friends when he runs out for his AFL debut at Manuka Oval.

Last night our players were lucky enough to be addressed by Major General Rick Burr from the Australian Defence Forces. This is a marvellous opportunity for our young players. As someone who did National Service and has been heavily involved in Anzac Day, I think it’s important to always remember what our defence forces have done for this country.

We are determined to establish a genuine AFL club presence here in Canberra. It’s exciting to think the people of Canberra can follow our club from its very beginning as we embark on the biggest and most exciting challenge the game has ever undertaken.

In just two weeks we’ll be back in Canberra to play the AFL’s other new kid on the block, the Gold Coast Suns. And in August we’ll play the oldest club in the competition, Melbourne. These are great events.

It promises to be a hell of journey for Australia’s game. I’m just pleased we’re finally here in the nation’s capital. Let the journey begin.

Kevin Sheedy