GWS Giants to play Sydney Swans, Geelong Cats and Gold Coast Suns in Canberra

The GWS Giants claim it will be the best AFL fixture Canberra has ever seen, but chief executive Dave Matthews says the AFL must throw more marketing clout behind next year's pre-season match against the Sydney Swans and not take the Buddy Franklin-factor for granted.

The four Giants games in Canberra next season will be book-ended by clashes against two of the modern era's best clubs; the Swans are set to play at Manuka Oval in a pre-season match on March 22 and the Geelong Cats have been confirmed for later in the premiership season.

THe name on everyone's lips: $10 million man Buddy Franklin.
THe name on everyone's lips: $10 million man Buddy Franklin. Photo: Christopher Pearce

In between, the Giants will take on Gary Ablett jnr's Gold Coast Suns in a 5.40pm twilight fixture on Anzac Day, and a Victorian team in round two, which will be confirmed on Thursday.

Provided teams are at full-strength, it brings a plethora of AFL superstars to the capital, headlined by Franklin and Adam Goodes for the Swans, along with Joel Selwood and Steve Johnson for the Cats.

But the Swans rested marquee men Franklin, Goodes and Kurt Tippett in last year's corresponding pre-season fixture at Manuka Oval, which drew a disappointing crowd of 6854.

Franklin's presence alone would easily boost numbers at the turnstiles, but Matthews said the AFL also had a responsibility to improve the marketing of the match.


"The game needs to be promoted better," Matthews said. "I think the AFL acknowledged itself last year that there wasn't a strong enough marketing push behind that game, and that's a game they market.

"We can't take for granted that the Swans playing in Canberra lends itself to a big crowd. That probably came to pass last year. We need to make sure there's a marketing push behind it.

"It's a matter for the Swans, but it'd be great to see [Franklin] playing ... what helps this time around is it's the third and final game of the NAB Challenge series, so as it gets closer to the home-and-away season there's a tendency for teams to run out their stars."

The Giants had lobbied the AFL to have a powerful Victorian club for their historic Anzac match in Canberra, which will coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.

But Matthews said the Giants were not disappointed by their draw with the Suns.

"We know the fixture is a complex process," he said. "Our over-riding objective was to get a really big Victorian club in one of the three premiership games. Geelong are a powerhouse of the modern era and were a real priority for us.

"We're developing a good rivalry against the Suns, we got our first ever win against them. Ablett is one of the greatest players of all time, so it's a great opportunity for people to come and see him up close and personal.

"I think we're going to have the best ever fixture of AFL games Canberra has ever seen."

The Giants will play three games in Canberra in six weeks, including premiership matches in rounds two and four. Matthews said coaching staff would determine how the Giants set up base in Canberra during the period.

While Matthews said he was committed to trying to bring a variety of teams to Canberra, he said there could be merit in a regular pre-season fixture against the Swans.

"We've got a four-game commitment for 10 years in Canberra," he said. "We've got 3500 members so we know we're going to have a stronger ongoing presence than the Swans do. But they've got arguably stronger history down there. It also means the two [premiership] derbies in Sydney retain their significance."

GIANTS' OPPOSITION IN CANBERRA SINCE 2012: Gold Coast Suns 3 games; Western Bulldogs 3; Sydney Swans 2; Geelong Cats 1; Richmond Tigers 1; Port Adelaide 1; Melbourne Demons 1; North Melbourne Kangaroos 1; Essendon Bombers 1; St Kilda 1.