Kieren Briggs during the Greater Western Sydney training session at Vailo Community Centre on March 8, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

THERE would be many a 'pinch me' moment as an AFL footballer but one of the more recent iterations for Greater Western Sydney ruckman Kieren Briggs has occurred a long way away from the bright lights and buzz of game day.

For the 24-year-old product of the Giants academy, that emotion was felt while travelling out to the humble surrounds of the Baulkham Hills junior footy club, way out in Sydney's west but a mere drop punt from where Briggs grew up.

Now a key man in the set-up of the premiership favourites, he still finds it hard to believe that it is he who is now the centre of attention and inspiration for the next generation.

"I'm literally driving past my public school as we speak," Briggs says to, while just minutes earlier he drove past his family home as he makes his way out to meet the juniors in his GWS polo.

Kieren Briggs during the round two match between West Coast and Greater Western Sydney at Optus Stadium, March 24, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"To be able to get to places like this and see kids that grew up in the same situation I did, it's really surreal," Briggs added.

"To be able to be the athlete now that the kids look up to and want to aspire to be and hopefully can encourage them to keep trying their best.

"Hopefully we can pluck a few more out of Western Sydney to be Giants one day."

That's the end game for all at GWS. If not plucking youngsters out to join the squad, then certainly fans. They are all in on that mission together, players and staff.


While they're all well aware they're playing the long game to achieve what they ultimately want, the signs of change are there already.

And there'd be few better to provide insight on that than the local boy in Briggs, himself.

"There's definitely been a shift since my first and second year, where kids were just sort of thinking 'let's try this thing out,' rather than actual enjoyment which we have now.

"The raw numbers have just multiplied tenfold. The kids that come now actually know what AFL is and enjoy kicking the footy and handballing the footy around. And they actually have Giants jerseys on and hats.

Kieren Briggs greets fans during the Greater Western Sydney training session at Vailo Community Centre, March 8, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"You never really saw that when I was growing up."

The beauty of the Giants is that nearly everyone who is part of the club, be it for one year or eleven, buys into the culture.

That's an easy thing to say at football clubs. At GWS, even to the most casual onlooker, it is tangible.

But to some like Briggs, who is a rare local product in a group comprising mainly of interstaters, it resonated even more.

"I feel like I have more of a sense of pride in my area, as a whole. To be able to go past these sort of areas where I grew up, I played a lot of footy at the oval I'm heading to now, it's sort of a full circle moment.


"They’re 'pinch me' moments, living out childhood dreams. It probably didn't really become a dream for me until I was about 16 or 17. Being in Sydney it wasn't really front of mind. And I'm grateful each week to be able to run out in the Giants jersey," Briggs said.

The Briggs passion for the project in Western Sydney made him an interesting subject for a question about a recent Sydney newspaper article claiming the top of the ladder Giants were anonymous in their home state.

But there was no fury over that from the Pennant Hills product, merely perspective.

"No, not at all. If you showed Storm players to people in Melbourne, you'd probably get the exact same response. People are always going to be on one side of the fence or the other. There's obviously going to be sports fans in general that love all sports, and I'll admit I like NRL as well.

"It's not something that we're fazed by. We know that we've only been around for just over 10 years, and some rugby league squads have been around for 100 plus.

"I think it's more that the NRL are scared that we're probably going to take their talent, and players are going to come to AFL and enjoy it more than what they do. But it's not a competition at the end of the day. If there's kids playing sport, it's obviously a win for the community in a whole. There’s a big pool in Western Sydney that we haven't quite scratched the surface with. There's definitely going to be kids that are going to be future stars of the AFL competition."

Jack Buller (L) competes against Kieren Briggs during the AFL U18 Championship match between the Allies and Western Australia at Etihad Stadium, July 4, 2018. Picture: Getty Images

Just how impactful an inaugural GWS premiership may be on the project to grow the game in Western Sydney is the exciting unknown for all involved, but that prospect is becoming more real by the week.

Briggs is at the heart of that as the number one ruckman and after a round one performance against Tristan Xerri and North that he feels was below his best, he bounced back superbly with a near best on ground display a week later against West Coast.

"You want to be the best every week, but sometimes it just doesn't fall into place. Shane (Mumford, GWS ruck coach) and the coaches were really happy with the way I bounced back. It's good momentum to take into the bye where we can get a refresh and attack the Suns the week after."

Kieren Briggs competes with Harry Barnett during the round two match between West Coast and Greater Western Sydney at Optus Stadium, March 24, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Briggs had 21 disposals against the Eagles with 12 clearances and 34 hitouts, as he took advantage of a ruck shift from West Coast that exposed debutant Harry Barnett to him for long periods.

"My game plan each week revolves around that being the aggressive ruckman that I thrive on being. You can only play what's in front of you. Harry (Barnett), he's going to be a good player. He is obviously still a young kid.

"It was nice to be able to play the game I did. At the moment, everyone is just buying into their roles. It's what's getting us the wins, us playing Giants brand footy. It's exciting to watch I'm sure as a spectator, and yeah, it's fun to play as well."