Students across Queanbeyan and Jerrabomberra were in for a treat on Friday, February 26, when a contingent of the GWS Giants dropped in to sign autographs following their 31-point loss to the Western Bulldogs the previous night.
Escorted by Queanbeyan Tiger and GWS academy star Mitch Wallis, the Giants quartet of Lachie Whitfield, Pat McKenna, Jarrod Pickett and Matthew Kennedy stopped in at Queanbeyan, Queanbeyan South and Jerrabomberra Public Schools before heading to Allinsure Park to brush shoulders with the Tigers.
The AFL's 2012 number one draft pick, Lachie Whitfield, lauded the AFL knowledge of local students, and said that it was unexpected in such a strong league and union environment.
"All the kids are really involved and they know a lot more about footy than we would expect," he said.
"Coming to Canberra, and coming to schools down here is a bit different to Western Sydney because you might get one kid out of the whole school who knows something about footy there, and out here there is obviously league and union as well, but at least a lot of the kids know about us."
The popularity of AFL in the region has always remained steady, and is set to expand with the Giants having recently unveiled an $800 million plan to upgrade Manuka Oval, citing a long-term investment in a partnership with the ACT and a desire to increase the profile of the code in the greater region.
"It [the Canberra region] is where the majority of our fans are, the crux of our support so it's good to get out on days like this and try and convert a couple of rugby league kids into footy fans," Whitfield said.
"It gives them a smile to put on their face, and they walk away, go home and tell their parents about it, and hopefully they start playing Auskick."