Bone-breaking bump ignited AFL's new derby

·4-min read

It was no Ramsgate Hotel brawl, but the first sign of bad blood between Sydney's AFL rivals can be traced back to the opening stages of their inaugural derby in 2012.

Saturday's SCG clash will mark the 20th edition of the Sydney derby.

A single bump sparked the first genuine grievance in what had, up until that point, largely been a confected stoush fuelled mostly by chief spruiker Kevin Sheedy's one-liners.

GWS playing coach James McDonald, the oldest player on the field, floored blindsided Swan Luke Parker, then aged 19 and playing his 14th game.

The hit, which momentarily flipped the narrative in a game billed as boys against men because the Giants had a record 17 debutants, is now a reference point for Parker's toughness, the derby, the decline of the bump, and shifting attitudes towards protecting the head.

The Swans' statesmen were unimpressed with the incident that broke Parker's jaw and earned McDonald a two-game ban.

GWS took a different view.

Callan Ward became trivia-night fodder when he kicked the Giants' first-ever goal that night, but the bone-rattling collision is what the hard-nosed midfielder remembers most vividly.

"It really set the tone for the game and the Giants as a football club. We wouldn't take a backwards step," Ward told AAP as he prepared for his 18th derby.

"I thought he was clean knocked out. He got him high, pretty flush.

"It was one of those ones, where 10-15 metres away you were like 'wow, that's a good hit'. I didn't see it as a dog shot or sniper shot at all, it was a good and fair bump.

"It did make a huge statement to a young club in their first game, and to nervous boys starting their career. They probably looked at it and thought 'wow, this is AFL football'."

It became clear in ensuing derbies that the victorious Swans, who also bristled at the level of chirp from the orange upstarts in their maiden match, hadn't forgotten.

"I actually don't remember there being a spot fire (after the bump). But I think they remembered it ... the rivalry built from that," Ward said.

"There were a few little things that happened, in the next five or six games, that were probably a result of that."

Parker, whose pluck is perhaps best summed up by Jude Bolton's praise that "you could hit him over the head with a block of wood and he'd get up", has a patchy memory of the blow and his refusal to be subbed off until the second half.

"It was a while ago. My bite was a little bit off," Parker quipped.

"I was a young kid and didn't want to give up my spot in the team."

Parker was diplomatic when asked about GWS's verbals during that first derby.

"I can't remember too much of the chirp. They were a young team with a lot of confidence," the Swans co-captain said.

"They never backed down from a contest and, very quickly, became a really good side."

Tomas Bugg, Taylor Adams and Devon Smith - all no longer at GWS - are believed to have been among the most talkative of the Giants' teenagers during their early lopsided losses.

"It wasn't something we spoke about or tried to do." Ward recalled.

"The way some of those young guys enjoyed their footy was to get in the face of the opposition.

"It did rub some opposition players the wrong way.

"It was looked at as if we were really arrogant and cocky. I didn't see it as disrespectful, like I've heard other people say."

Ward, who has twice been awarded the Brett Kirk medal for best on ground in the Sydney derby, noted his expansion club has "massive respect" for the Swans .

"Early on, we learned so much from how they played and how they operated as a footy club," the 31-year-old said.

"I've always admired them. They're a really hard and tough opposition. We always look forward to this game and seeing how we compare."