Sydney Swans CEO Tom Harley urges retention of academy system in NSW and Queensland

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Sydney Swans chief executive Tom Harley has a unique perspective on Saturday’s Sydney Derby.

Shortly after retiring as a premiership player with Geelong, he began working for the Giants ahead of their debut season in the AFL. His post-playing career now finds him employed in the east of the city.

Harley witnessed the Giants’ transform from humble beginnings at Rooty Hill RSL into premiership contenders who provide competition for the Swans on and off the field. The 28th on-field instalment of the rivalry will take place before an expected full house at Sydney Olympic Park on Saturday night.

“The first thing about the derby is, save for probably the first couple of years when, obviously, the Giants were coming into the competition, they’ve become really great games of footy, two really good teams having a red-hot go and I fully expect that to be the case on Saturday night,” Harley said.

“It is becoming a marquee game and there’s genuine on-field rivalry, we both understand the role that we’ve got to grow the game from grassroots and above but when you’re talking about just the elite competition, the AFL competition is fierce, and I fully expect a really strong crowd out at ENGIE Stadium.”

Both the Giants and the Swans have benefited from the presence of successful academies that have developed some of the AFL’s elite players in non-traditional markets.

Swans CEO Tom Harley has had a front row seat for the Sydney Derby

Swans CEO Tom Harley has had a front row seat for the Sydney DerbyCredit: Dominic Lorrimer

Kieran Briggs, Harry Himmelberg and Tom Green are three key graduates for the Giants, while the Swans boast stars such as Errol Gulden, Callum Mills, Isaac Heeney and Nick Blakey.

The AFL is currently discussing the prospect of a change in bidding on academy players, which could mean that the Swans and Giants would have a higher draft cost to secure elite talent that has come through their academy, potentially missing out on elite talent like Green or Heeney.

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