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Canberra a better option for primetime Giants: Matthews

The Giants return to their second home in Canberra for their first ever Friday night clash - ${keywords}
The Giants return to their second home in Canberra for their first ever Friday night clash
Capital needs to be found to invest in the venue because it's not up to scratch
Giants CEO Dave Matthews

GREATER Western Sydney chief executive David Matthews believes that Manuka Oval is better placed to stage Friday night games ahead of Spotless Stadium.

The Giants feature in the first Friday night game in club history when they host the Western Bulldogs in Canberra. 

Matthews acknowledged the difficulty in hosting a Friday night game in western Sydney, but hopes it will become an option in the future. 

"Friday nights for us are about TV exposure because it can be a difficult thing to move around western Sydney on a Friday night," he said.

"That's why our best timeslot in Sydney is Saturday twilight. The weather is better than in Melbourne and you can time your run and get to the game. 

"Once we build our crowds and increase our reserved seat capacity we might revisit that," he said. 

The Giants play St Kilda at Etihad Stadium next Friday night and are back there for a return game against the Bulldogs in round 21 as the AFL tries to cash in on the rivalry between the two clubs, which was sparked by some high-profile player movements between the clubs and then exploded after last year's epic preliminary final.

"I haven’t watched the replay and I don't think I ever will," Matthews confessed in an interview in this week's AFL Record. 

With the NRL's Canberra Raiders out of town and Super Rugby's ACT Brumbies not playing until later that weekend, the AFL will have the nation's capital all to itself and a capacity crowd of 16,000 is expected for the city's first ever Friday night game, which will stretch facilities at the ground to the maximum. 

And the future of Manuka, now officially known as UNSW Canberra Oval, will be firmly on the agenda as the heavyweights from the AFL and the ACT government come together at the pre-match function. 

Plans for a major overhaul of the ground which, because of its central location and picturesque features, has been likened to Adelaide Oval, were scrapped, partly due to a vocal and effective protest campaign by some of the local residents in what is a leafy, affluent and conservative part of the city.

For now, the only capital works planned is a new media centre, to be built in time for the ground's first cricket test match, to be held during the 2018/19 season. But because of the alignment of the cricket wickets, it will be located behind the goals for football.

"The easiest way to summarise Manuka is that the surface is as good as any in the AFL, while the amenities are equal to the worst," said Matthews while recounting horror stories from spectators of long queues for food and drinks, and for the bathrooms.

"I'm not trying to be disparaging, but the ACT Government needs to recognise that to attract test cricket and for the next 10 years of the Giants, capital needs to be found to invest in the venue because it's not up to scratch." 

A full version of this story, including an examination of the impact the Giants are making in the ACT, appears in this weekend's edition of the AFL Record, available at all grounds for $5.