A GWS Giants step for celebrating women

Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page and Tony Shepherd at yesterday’s GWS Giants lunch in Sydney. Picture: Hollie Adams.

Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page and Tony Shepherd at yesterday’s GWS Giants lunch in Sydney. Picture: Hollie Adams.

From the time it kicked off in 2012 as Sydney’s second AFL team, the Greater Western Sydney Giants have had their own distinctive character.

Along with its colours of orange, charcoal and white, GWS, the newest team in the AFL, has always celebrated its ties with women supporters (including mothers, wives and partners) — and now women players.

Entering this round second on the ladder, the team, which plays Richmond at Spotless Stadium today, attracted more than 500 people to its annual women’s lunch in Sydney yesterday.

The guest of honour was Giants board member Rebekah Giles, a partner at law firm Kennedy’s.

The single mother and lawyer gave a moving account of surviving the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand and her journey into the AFL.

“This is our greatest event of the year,” Giants chairman and Sydney businessman Tony Shepherd told The Weekend Australian yesterday. “We Giants don’t talk inclusion, we do it.

“With our new women’s AFL team and the remarkable Giants Netball team, we are recognising that 50 per cent of the population is women.

“Rebekah’s story mirrors the Giants’ motto: never surrender.”

Along with the rise of the GWS Giants team has been the growth of a women’s AFL team, the Auburn Giants.

The largely Muslim women’s team is sponsored by Harvey Norman with the strong support of chief executive Katie Page, who was also at yesterday’s lunch. “Katie is passionate about women in sport and initiated the Auburn Giants,” Mr Shepherd said.

The Auburn Giants play in a Sydney-based competition, while the GWS Giants fielded a team in the women’s AFL competition that made its debut this year. The GWS side was also sponsored by Harvey Norman.

Other guests at the lunch included NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayres, Richmond’s first female president Peggy O’Neal, Michael Rudd from Toyo Tires and Sydney Motorway Corporation chief executive Dennis Cliche. Melissa Doyle was the MC, alongside Giants co-captain Phil Davis.

Mr Shepherd said the AFL women’s team and its netball team “have seen the club strengthen our ties with women’s sport”.

Ms Page described the lunch and Ms Giles’s story as “absolutely inspirational”.

“In a very short time, the board of GWS has achieved a blue print for clubs not only achieving on the field but also in their community,” she said.

“It was great to have so many extraordinary women in one room representing grassroots AFL, through to the boardroom, to the female AFL and netball players.”