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Historic day at Manuka as GWS wins first AFL match

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KEVIN SHEEDY high-fived fans, players embraced like they’d won the grand final and a sea of orange belted out a song they’d never heard before.
Not only was this a momentous day for the GWS Giants, but finally, after more than a decade of false promises and near misses, Canberra was firmly back on the AFL map.
Walter Burley Griffin’s grand old girl has been wined, dined and left at the altar too many times to remember.
But the sins of North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs were forgotten when the Giants made history with their first-ever victory yesterday with a stirring 27-point win against the Gold Coast Suns.
That it came at their part-time home in the national capital and not in western Sydney is a major win for a code eager to get back in the city’s good books.
Sheedy has been the club’s public face from its humble beginnings.
Like in 2010, when he championed the ACT 4 GWS campaign, which exceeded its goal of 5000, $50 foundation memberships as well as substantial corporate and government support, including a $26 million deal from the ACT Government for three matches a year for the next decade.
The coaching doyen was beaming like a proud father, striding off the ground at full-time, high-fiving anyone who stuck a hand up in his direction.
‘‘Genuinely we’re trying to say to the city that we’re going to be here forever,’’ Sheedy said.
‘‘The first part of that step was a 10-year contract and we want the city of Canberra to understand the Giants journey.
‘‘It’s about building that trust and belief and honest commitment to the area.
‘‘It’s about that connection that young kids believing they can make it.’’
Eastlake junior Josh Bruce proved that adage true when he kicked the club’s first goal in its debut outing in Canberra against the Western Bulldogs, while co-captain Phil Davis is a product of Marist College.
With plenty of family among the 8603-strong crowd, including his grandma and uncles and aunties, the former Adelaide Crows defender rated yesterday’s success as a day which will live with him forever.
‘‘It’s a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life,’’ Davis said.
 ‘‘I remember when Adam Treloar kicked that left-foot snap I just remember hearing a deafening roar,’’ ‘‘It was pretty amazing, felt like we won a final.
‘‘I grabbed the bloke next to me and told him how proud I was.’’
Rookies and veterans celebrated as hard as one another.
Andrew Phillips couldn’t have picked a better game to make his debut, while triple-premiership winner Luke Power rated it up there with his hat-trick of titles with the Brisbane Lions from 2001-03.
The 34-year-old retired after 282 games with the Lions but reversed his decision to become a player-coach with the expansion club.
‘‘I’m very proud, I feel like an older brother when you’re younger brother does well,’’ the 34-year-old said.
‘‘It gives you great satisfaction ... we think we’re setting them up to play a reasonable brand of footy.’’
Sheedy isn’t getting ahead of himself.
He’s realistic enough to know his young batch of future stars faces a tough test for the rest of the year.
Perhaps the best chance of another victory will come in the side’s next visit to Canberra when it hosts the struggling Melbourne in August.
ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr hopes yesterday’s success is the start of a bright future in Canberra.
‘‘It’s very significant for the club as they hope to make Manuka a bit of a fortress,’’ Barr said.
‘‘The best description I’ve heard of GWS is that they are the AFL’s term deposit and in the next few years they’ll pay off.
‘‘It’s a long-term commitment and hopefully with the improvements to Manuka Oval the crowds will only continue to grow.’’