Back in 2014, Kevin Sheedy had just stepped down as coach of GWS after guiding the expansion club through their first two seasons in the comp. As expected, there was a lot of losing – three wins in 44 matches – but it was all to plan. “It’s better for an experienced coach to do that than a young coach, really,” said the veteran of 29 seasons as an AFL senior coach.

When Sheedy sat down with Inside Sport that day, he at first had rushed back to his office to fetch his diary and a heavily dog-eared road atlas. His diary was a kaleidoscope of highlighter markings; across the top of a page was inscribed: “The Tapestry”.

He went on to explain in minute detail what he was doing to build up GWS’ following throughout its zone in the Riverina and the border region. Listening to Sheedy, you got the impression that he endured all the knocks in those first two seasons to be able to indulge in this passion project – travel all over the country and seed the AFL’s newest club. He wanted footy clubs in every little town he visited to rename themselves “Giants”. “You have to dance on your island,” he explained.

Evangelising in non-AFL territory energised Sheedy, who took the most expansive view of what our native football could mean to the nation. If it meant ruffling feathers back in Aussie rules heartland in Melbourne, so be it.

The passage of time, or his departure from western Sydney to return to Essendon, has not lessened his ardour. With GWS preparing to host a preliminary final and on the verge of fulfilling Victorian clubs’ long-held fears about them, it was a moment for Sheedy to indulge. In comments reported today, he chastised critics of the Giants as “sooks and whingers” who needed “to get a life”.

“I had a person the other day, ‘Look, it’s very unfair for Melbourne clubs with the Giants making it’,” he said, noting that Hawthorn had gone from the precipice of merging in the late 1990s to become a dynasty.

“If you want to make a success of your club, get your act together and start planning better than what they previously have done, and that’s including the Richmonds and all the other clubs that feel ‘oh, it’s been a hard period’. Well, it hasn’t been hard for Hawthorn and Geelong.”