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Why SF Giants fans should support this Australian football team

Harry Himmelberg’s mark helped the Greater Western Sydney Giants secure a two-point win over Hawthorn. | Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

They’re called the Giants, they wear orange and their team song is even better than “Bye Bye Baby.”

They are the Greater Western Sydney Giants, members of the Australian Football League (AFL) and a club all San Francisco Giants fans should consider supporting simply for the shared name and colors.

Australian rules football, known for its high-flying marks and lack of padding, is played from March through September, with a handful of games each week televised in the U.S. by Fox Sports, and it’s the perfect sport to help baseball fans get through the summer.

Even if 2023 turns out to be a great summer for Bay Area sports fans, with a deep Golden State Warriors playoff run and the SF Giants shaking off a disappointing 11-17 start to the season, footy is a great sport to accompany baseball through the months with little else to watch. Without the World Cup or Olympics this year, channel surfers will find themselves looking for entertainment, and if they turn on Fox Sports at the right time, they’ll find footy.

AFL games appear on Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports 2 on most Friday and Saturday nights. FS2 televised last week’s Sydney Derby, the Giants’ thrilling come-from-behind one-point win over the rival Sydney Swans, where captain Toby Greene kicked the winning goal with 42 seconds remaining.

Stephen Coniglio (3) hugs Greater Western Sydney Giants captain Toby Greene (4) after Greene's go-ahead goal against Sydney. | Mark Kolbe/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

Footy—don’t confuse it with rugby, as that’ll anger fans of both sports—is played on fields far larger than NFL fields, and was invented in the 1850s. Each team has 18 players on the field at a time, and goals, worth six points, are scored by kicking the ball through the two middle goalposts at the end of the field. A ball kicked through the side goalposts is a behind, worth one point. The sport recently appeared on 60 Minutes, which documented the unlikely story of Mason Cox, the 6-foot-11 Texan who plays for the Collingwood Magpies, the sport’s equivalent of the Dallas Cowboys.

Greater Western Sydney (GWS) is the newest club in the AFL, beginning play in the 2012 season. In their brief history, they have had sporadic success, reaching the Grand Final (Australia’s Super Bowl) in 2019 but losing in blowout fashion to the Richmond Tigers.

In their first 11 seasons, the Giants have qualified for finals, or the playoffs, five times, including in four consecutive years from 2016 through 2019. However, they have a reputation for being unable to retain star players, who often request trades to teams closer to their homes in Melbourne.

Their most endearing trait is their club’s song, “Big Big Sound.” The song, which sounds like a piece of Soviet propaganda, is played when the team runs out for games and after each win. Players also sing the song in the changing rooms following each win.

“Big Big Sound” memes, including dozens inspired by The Simpsons, took Australia by storm throughout the club’s 2019 run to the Grand Final. The club’s social media team also plays into the bit.

GWS now sports a 3-4 record and sits in 12th place out of 18 teams just shy of the one-third mark of the season. Teams play 23 games during the home-and-away season, or what Americans would call the regular season.

Interactions between GWS and San Francisco have been minimal, but the Australian club did congratulate San Francisco on its 2014 championship, and two GWS players visited then-AT&T Park for a game in 2015.

“The former U.S. Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich, became an Aussie Rules and Giants fan whilst living in Canberra,” team CEO David Matthews said. “He was later kind enough to facilitate a meeting with the SF Giants owners and managers in San Francisco.”

The colors weren’t directly inspired by the baseball team, though.

“Our colors were in part chosen because of what the other 17 clubs had already taken,” Matthews said. “That said, we couldn’t be more delighted to be orange and charcoal.”

Greater Western Sydney Giants midfielder Stephen Coniglio (3) battles for a mark against Brisbane Lions midfielder Lachie Neale (9). | Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The “orange tsunami” has reached the United States, though there are currently stronger ties in Southern California.

“We’re very supportive of the USAFL and the aspirations they have for growing and promoting Aussie Rules. In particular, we have a strong connection with the Orange County Giants,” Matthews explained. “We had some players visit and train with them in the offseason. We also have an emerging plan to bring a professional game to the U.S. at some stage in the coming years.”

The OC Giants occasionally compete against the Golden Gate Roos, San Francisco’s Aussie Rules team.

Aside from Greene and Cadman, fans looking to follow the Giants should also look out for midfielders Stephen Coniglio and Tom Green, as well as tall forward Harry Himmelberg. Sam Taylor is considered one of the game’s top defenders, but is currently sidelined by a hamstring injury. Rookie Jason Gillbee has yet to make his debut, but has already become a cult hero after revealing he exclusively drinks milk instead of water.

The Giants’ next three games are on Fox Soccer Plus, and their May 26 game against defending champion Geelong, set to begin at 11:35 p.m., will be on FS2. All AFL games are also available via WatchAFL, the league’s subscription-based service, akin to NFL Sunday Ticket.