One Giant Family: The second home

Womens.afl spent three days with Greater Western Sydney's AFLW side two weeks before the start of the season. The resulting four-part series, One Giant Family, explores what makes this AFLW side tick, how it attracts and maintains talent, and the role of coach Alan McConnell as ringmaster.

GREATER Western Sydney forward Delma Gisu has travelled further than most for her AFL Women's opportunity.

"I wanted to be (one of) the first Torres Strait Islander girls to make the AFLW," Gisu said.

"Every morning I'd think of that, and now I'm here."

The 22-year-old, pictured above, is from Mer (or Murray) Island. Some 250km off the north coast of Queensland, Mer is one of the most isolated islands in the Torres Strait.

In fact, it's closer to Papua New Guinea (140km away) than it is to Australia.

Fremantle’s Alicia Janz also hails from the region.

Gisu moved to Townsville in her teens. She was a basketballer in a football-obsessed school, turning down repeated requests from teachers to play with the oval ball.

Eventually she relented, playing in an interschool tournament where she was identified and selected for an AFL Queensland Kickstart team for indigenous players.

Rising through the ranks, the agile forward was named All Australian in 2015 after playing in the national carnival for the Woomeras (an under-18 indigenous team made up of players from all over the country), was part of Gold Coast's Academy, spent time as a train-on player with Brisbane's AFLW team and represented the Suns in the 2018 Winter Series.

Delma Gisu, playing for the Lions in 2016, fends off Demons star Daisy Pearce

Sydney is a world away from Mer Island. Her move south is also an example of the Giants having to look outside the square when it comes to recruiting (Irishwomen Cora Staunton and Yvonne Bonner are others).

The team's welfare manager, Gail Wykes, has worked closely with Gisu since she arrived in November.

Wykes is fondly known as the team mum. Before her time at the Giants, she worked for Softball NSW, even going to the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 as manager of the Australian team.

She was also the director of education and training at Fire and Rescue NSW before coming out of retirement to support the Giants.

Wykes says she doesn't know much about football, but the players clearly adore her.

She is an integral part of making the club a second home.

In the space of five minutes, as players wander past, she asks Britt Perry about her grandmother's health, another player about her work shifts, and then commiserates with Staunton, who mock-complains her teammates are still picking on her accent in her second year.

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"They don't have anything to say to [fellow Irishwoman] Yvonne!" Staunton says.

Captain Amanda Farrugia bounces up, her diminutive 163cm frame hidden by two black garbage bags stuffed with sneakers. Wykes is collecting the shoes that will eventually be passed on to others or recycled.

Farrugia, known as 'Fridge' after players initially misheard her surname, said despite the cull, she still has around 20 pairs at home.

"There's a story in Fridge's hoarding tendencies," vice-captain Alicia Eva said with a grin.

In front of Wykes are three containers of healthy "treats" she has baked, some of which are gluten-free. Wykes even knows which of the support staff are coeliac. Despite continually offering the date protein balls, chocolate is the clear favourite.

She's been busy teaching Gisu, among others, how to cook.

"Gail's been helping me a lot with cooking lessons, which I love. Baked macaroni and chicken enchiladas are my favourite," Gisu said.

Gisu, who teammates have dubbed 'Gangsta' for her habit of arriving for training wearing large headphones and oversized aviator sunglasses, is settling in her new home.

"I was nervous and I was shy ... everything was new to me. I didn't really talk to anyone at the club," she said.

"Once I got to know the girls, I started to open up a bit. The club is like a family for me. It's multicultural and all the girls are always around when you need them.

"It's fun to play footy with family."

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