Kieren Briggs speaks to the media at Parramatta Square on March 5, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

THERE'S a growing "buzz and excitement" around the western Sydney community as Opening Round descends on New South Wales.

With Greater Western Sydney preparing to play its biggest ever opening game against Collingwood on Saturday night, ruckman Kieren Briggs felt a palpable shift in the community's warmth to AFL and the growth of the game in western Sydney as he greeted fans ahead of the season.

"I'm back where I grew up so it's exciting to be back in western Sydney and to have a bit of noise around it this week," Briggs said.

"Looking forward to it on Saturday night."

A stone's throw from where Briggs first picked up a Sherrin, Parramatta Square played host to the Giants on Tuesday, giving fans a chance to interact with their favourite players and get a sense of the significance of Opening Round.

"We know how big it is Australia-wide but particularly in western Sydney we have so many markets that we can reach," Briggs said.

"There was nothing that was really on the radar when I was around so it's exciting to see such a big event down here and it's exciting to see AFL growing in western Sydney especially.

"Events like today can create awareness and excitement for young kids and for adults as well, just to get down and enjoy these fun activities in places like Parramatta Square.

"It creates buzz and excitement around AFL itself."

Kieren Briggs during Greater Western Sydney's training session on February 9, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

The event comes just weeks after the AFL's announcement of an ambitious plan to invest $1B into game development over the next decade, to increase opportunity and access into the sport in areas like western Sydney, the nation's fastest growing community.

AFL manager of game development Rob Auld was on hand in Parramatta yesterday to throw further support behind the plan.

The Giants' list remains confident of sustaining the intrigue on-field, with raised expectations from pundits around the country following their phenomenal form in the back half of 2023 season.

Reigning premier Collingwood shapes as the perfect litmus test for how well that momentum has been sustained over summer.

"We're just going to go about it like any other game," Briggs says.

“We know we've done the work over the preseason now and we're confident that we can bring out a really good brand of footy to compete with the best.

"Collingwood were the benchmark last year so to be able to play them in Opening Round this year is exciting for us and will really show where we’re at this year."


There's a personal aspect to the first match of the season for Briggs, who has been impressed by the growth of the sport's following in the area since he started as a Pennant Hills junior.

"There was nothing that was really on the radar when I was around so it's exciting to see such a big event down here today and it's exciting to see AFL growing in western Sydney especially," Briggs says.

"It's so exciting to see, not only that the game of AFL is growing but now it's western Sydney again and Opening Round sellouts, everyone is so excited about it it's going to be such a buzz out at Homebush and we can't wait to play in front of a big crowd.

"I heard today that Tom Green has half the tickets in the stadium so if anyone needs a ticket they can hit him up."