Swans and Giants players at a junior footy clinic on March 27, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

CROSS-TOWN rivals put animosities aside this week as 81 AFL-listed players visited 19 junior clubs across Sydney as part of Local Footy Week.

With the two Sydney teams on top of the table, the window of opportunity to grow the game in one of the most saturated sporting markets in the world isn't lost on Swans veteran Dane Rampe, himself a Sydney local.

"We want to take ownership of where the game is going," Rampe says.

"We're very excited with the progress we've made, probably in the last decade more so than ever, and it's heading in the right direction.

"You can tell by the interest that both the Swans and the Giants are generating within the NSW market that it is going in the right direction and we're doing something right."

An AFL Sydney junior out of the East Sydney Bulldogs, Rampe also spent time playing with Williamstown in the VFL before landing back in Sydney at the Swans. He says he's seen a marked shift in both the attention paid to the game and skill level of junior players in NSW.

"You can tell by the excitement of the kids and smiles on faces this afternoon and you'd like to think that it's a source of inspiration," he says.

"That's why we like coming down and doing these things in the season.

Swans and Giants players at a junior footy clinic on March 27, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

"I think the biggest thing I've noticed has been the skill level with both boys and girls from that under-6 to under-10s level, the skills are noticeably different.

"When I first started 10-11 years ago, the level wasn't as high as it is now. You can see that kids are taking to footy, enjoying their footy and they're going to be better for it and I think we're going to be better for it now as well.

"I still remember that sense of awe and excitement [as an Auskicker]. Hopefully we can return serve today by coming down here and getting around the kids."

The Swans currently have 10 AFL Sydney juniors on their list, while Isaac Heeney and Harry Cunningham both hail from regional NSW.

With the recent CBA agreement ensuring hundreds of juniors in Sydney will gain access to senior players through multiple visits during the season, it's hoped those sorts of numbers will become baseline figures for both Sydney clubs in the future.

As a Giants Academy product from the NSW Riverina, Harry Himmelberg knows better than most the importance of seeing your footy heroes up close.

"The ability for us and the Swans to come down here and help with the growth of the game is something we're both very passionate about," Himmelberg says.

Swans and Giants players at a junior footy clinic on March 27, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

"To see how excited some of the young kids were that both teams were here was awesome.

"Growing up in Wagga, when the AFL players used to come to Auskick it used to be so exciting. So to know what that feels like for these young kids is a good feeling and it definitely helps us to grow the game and keep kids interested."

Current Giants players are engaging with a community that has grown up with the club, with many of the junior participants involved this week the first generation of local footballers to be born after the club's admission into the league in 2012.

While the Swans-Giants rivalry may be front of mind for fans as the two clubs sit at the top of the ladder, both Rampe and Himmelberg know it's better to put any animosity aside when stepping out into the community.

"Something like this is about growing the game, it's not about the rivalry,” Himmelberg says.

"Both the Giants and the Swans are passionate about creating an environment in NSW in which footy is the main sport. So to be able to come with the Swans and put the rivalry aside for one night is something we're happy to do."