Giant leaps forward in Penrith

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While valiant in defeat most weeks, it is probably best to forget what the GWS Giants are doing on the field for the time being and shift some attention to what they’re doing off the field.

While they’re statistically having their best season since coming into the AFL competition in 2012, the Giants are also making significant inroads into the Penrith community through various education and community engagement programs.

GWS’ hardworking Community Engagement team, lead by manager Ali Faraj and his sidekick Emad Elkheir, are the two men behind the Penrith push.

The pair run a number of community education programs throughout the year visiting everywhere from local high schools and universities to juvenile justice centres.

“The Giants are committed to what’s happening on the field but also off it by supporting and nurturing young people and giving opportunities to various community groups,” Mr Faraj told the Weekender.

“Obviously not everyone will become an elite AFL player but there is no reason why you can’t support as a fan, member, administrator, development officer or sponsor. Sometimes people forget the other side of the business.”

A number of the successful programs the Giants run include a Bridges to Higher Education program with the University of Western Sydney, which is designed to encourage kids to take up tertiary education or traineeships.

The Giants have also teamed up with PCYC Penrith where the club facilitates sessions about goal setting and dedication to success with young Indigenous groups.

“During the multicultural round a few weeks back we took this group from PCYC Penrith to watch a game,” Mr Faraj said.

Another worthy initiative sees the Giants run a 12-week Indigenous mentoring program at Cranebrook High School while another program sees them visit Cobham Juvenile Justice Centre in St Marys on a weekly basis.

The Giants’ mark in Penrith isn’t just about convincing people to switch codes, it’s about something much bigger than football.

“I grew up in western Sydney supporting rugby league all my life,” he said.

“It’s all about generational change. We’re not silly or naïve about people jumping on the bandwagon, we are pretty switched on in relation to that.”

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