Having grown up a Greater Western Sydney fan from the AFL club’s earliest days, young ruck Kieren Briggs knows all about being part of exclusive groups.
The 21-year-old will become just the second western Sydney product of the Giants’ academy to play for the club in the AFL after being named to debut against Richmond on Saturday.
He’s following in the footsteps of midfielder Nick Shipley, who debuted in 2019.
While Shipley had split loyalties as a youngster – spending time away from Australian rules to play soccer before returning to the Giants – Briggs is GWS to the core.
Part of the Giants’ second academy intake, Briggs admits it was tough to be a GWS fan in the club’s early years but he is hopeful his own journey is the first of many stories of boyhood supporters becoming senior players.
“There was only three or four wins in the first three years so those wins were very special to remember,” Briggs said.
“As we progressed and grew as a club it was very cool to be there and watch that happen.
“Then to end up on the list was awesome and getting to go out and play this weekend, it’s great … hopefully inspires other kids in Western Sydney as well.”
While his graduation to AFL from the suburbs of Sydney’s west via the Giants academy is a relatively untrodden path, Briggs is joining a list of AFL players from the Pennant Hills Demons that already includes Lenny Hayes, Braeden Campbell, Jarrod McVeigh and Kieren Jack.
Not even the prospect of taking on the Tigers’ premiership-winning ruckman Toby Nankervis is fazing the 200cm youngster, who has already come through a cafeteria run-in with intimidating teammate Shane Mumford.
The Giants veteran put some home truths to Briggs about his future shortly after he was overlooked for the 2017 draft – a reality check he said was the catalyst to becoming an AFL footballer.
“It was a really eye-opening chat. It was sort of midway through pre-season and he challenged me whether I really wanted to be there or not,” Briggs said.
“Whether I was doing all the right things to learn and want to be on the list.
“It was sort of that moment that was a bit of a juncture in changing the way I thought and the way I trained … he was really pivotal in that as well.”