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GWS or Gold Coast: Who does it better?

Gary Ablett's Suns had a head start on the Giants but the new boys have quickly caught up - ${keywords}
Gary Ablett's Suns had a head start on the Giants but the new boys have quickly caught up

Greater Western Sydney

ON FIELD, the Giants have the edge over their northern rivals in terms of their best performances and output last season, even if the Suns were rocked by injury in 2015.

GWS won 11 games last year despite missing some key personnel of its own, so you have to look at the best 22 of each side, and the Giants win that battle.

I look at teams in terms of how many A-grade stars they possess, and the Giants have Callan Ward, Dylan Shiel, Jeremy Cameron, Heath Shaw and Shane Mumford who fall into that category, while Gold Coast have Gary Ablett and at a stretch, defender Steven May.

Both lists are stacked full of potential but the Giants have more depth in all three areas of the game, and the recruitment of Shaw, Mumford, Ryan Griffen, Joel Patfull and Steve Johnson gives them five quality players with a heap of experience, which is where a lack of support hurts Ablett and the Suns.

Off the field, the Giants and the Suns both still have a lot of work to do to break into the non-AFL market, but GWS set records for attendances and membership in 2015 and appears to be on an upward spiral.

The club's innovation in getting the likes of Diesel and Shannon Noll to perform at half-time of games at Spotless Stadium shows that they're thinking about their target market and trying to make their game experience attractive for fans.

The Giants academy continues to provide the club with high-quality talent; all four of their draftees this year were products of the program. This shows the future is bright for the club and the work being done away from senior level is just as important to the Giants as how many wins Leon Cameron's men can get during the season.

Both clubs have huge potential to be top-eight contenders this year but I think the Giants have the Suns covered in all areas heading into 2016. - Adam Curley

Jeremy Cameron gives GWS an edge up forward that few teams can match. Picture: AFL Media

Gold Coast

The on-field argument here is a tough one, but off-field, it's not even close. After just five years the Suns are entrenched in the Gold Coast community and have set up a model that is sustainable long-term – no easy feat in a place that has been a black hole for major sporting teams.

It hasn't come easily – they've poured in over 26,000 hours of community work in five seasons – but it has paid off. In a rugby league-mad state, an AFL survey recently showed 95 per cent of Gold Coasters were aware of the Suns. That should be no surprise as the competition's 17th franchise was established because the region wanted a club and ran a successful campaign to win a license.

The Giants exist because the AFL needs a presence in the fastest-growing region of the country, but it's region that is still coming to terms with what Australian football actually is.

That's not to say the Giants don't have a connection with their region, but it's nowhere near the same level as the Suns.

Gold Coast has endeared itself to sponsors and commercial supporters, already ranking in the league's top eight for commercial revenue. Three of its top-tier sponsors  – HostPlus, Virgin Australia and Southport Sharks – have extended their agreements to 10 years. The outstanding Metricon Stadium facilities also have the Suns in the top five for corporate hospitality in the AFL. The locals want this team for the long run.

But what will truly make it a success is a winning team. While last season was a disaster with injuries and lack of off-field discipline, the Suns will eventually be better for it, with more depth unearthed and a professionalism that now matches the talent.

Adam's point about the Giants having a host of elite talent is valid, but people were too quick to forget the prime Gold Coast midfield that sat on the sidelines for most of 2015. Put Gary Ablett, Jaeger O'Meara, David Swallow and Dion Prestia – who played just 20 games between them – back into the fold and you have a midfield the envy of most teams.

Key forward Tom Lynch isn't as flashy as Jeremy Cameron, but every bit as good, while in Steven May and Rory Thompson they have key defenders for another six or eight years.

The Giants have endless high draft picks, but the Suns have just as much talent on the field and a more sound base off it. - Michael Whiting