The Swans are one of the interesting teams going in to this season, having a rare miss of finals last season, making it just the second time they have missed September action since 2003. They are clearly in rebuild mode, but when you have Buddy Franklin up forward you are always in with a chance to win games, and they just compete that they never seem to be out of games.
It will be interesting to see how the Swans will play this season? For so long, the Swans relied heavily on contested footy and defence to win games, and regularly failed to kick scores of 100 or more, despite having the best forward of the decade in their Forward 50. Were they smart to sign Longmire up again? Or should they have let him go to North as they go through the rebuild? Can they find a faster path to goal to give their forwards a chance one out? Or stick with a slower more rigid style of player? Supporters have been vocal of recent times about Longmire and his coaching, so a poor start to the year won’t help that out. Then again, the Swans just need to retain focus on their rebuild and ignore outside noise. They are bringing in young talent to replace proven warriors of the past.
It takes time.
In: Lewis Taylor (Brisbane Lions), Kaiden Brand (Hawthorn), Sam Gray (Port Adelaide), Dylan Stephens, Will Gould, Elijah Taylor, Chad Warner (Draft), Brady Rowles, Jack Maibaum (Rookie draft)
Out: Darcy Cameron (Collingwood), Zak Jones (St Kilda), Heath Grundy (retired), Kieren Jack (retired), Jarrad McVeigh (retired), Nick Smith (retired), James Rose (delisted), Durak Tucker (delisted), Toby Pink (delisted), Cody Hirst (delisted), Daniel Menzel (delisted), Jack Maibaum (delisted)
The start to the year could really define how the Swans perform this year. Their first four games are against teams that they would be confidant against being the Crows, Bombers, Suns and Blues. The Crows and Suns are away games, whilst they get the Bombers again at home in a game that has had some awesome finishes over the last couple of years. If they can negotiate those, they then have bac to back games against top 4 aspirants in the Giants and the Lions which will be tougher.
They finish the year travelling only to Melbourne or staying in Sydney which is handy, though in their last 6 games they play only one side not expected to challenge for the top 8 (Gold Coast). They have double-ups against the Giants of course, however they are the only top 4 aspirant amongst them. Essendon and Hawthorn will be pushing for finals, whilst the Blues will be down around the bottom again along with the Gold Coast.
Overall, the draw could be worse for the Swans.
5 BIG QUESTIONS FOR THE SWANS:
1:What do they do with Buddy?
Buddy has been reasonably durable during his career, but of recent times he’s been more injury prone. He’s not getting any younger, and the Swans are now paying him more than ever, so how do they maximise his output? Do they look at him as a ‘home games only’ style arrangement, with some trips to Melbourne and Brisbane, but no longer journey’s? Do they look at limiting him to 2 to 3 games at a time, then a break? Or do you just back in the big fella in and pray he stays fit? With just 56 goals to get till he tops 1000, they will want to nurture him as much as possible whilst also giving him the best chance to achieve the mark. Either way, he’s an expensive asset they need to ensure stays on the park as much as possible.
2:Who leads the defence?
McVeigh, Grundy and Nick Smith have left, which equates to around 800 games of experience lost in defence. Do they keep Callum Mills back there to lead the defence? Is Rampe the leader back there? Or do they have someone else in mind to run things? Aliir Aliir is a quality backman, whilst the acquisition of Kaiden Brand from Hawthorn gives them another tall option, but neither scream out to be the conductor they need, so it may fall on a collective and hope they can cover the huge losses from last season.
3: When will the real Callum Mills stand up?
Highly rated as a junior, but I’m not convinced we’ve seen that translate to AFL level to date. Remember, this kid was rated higher than Heeney as a junior yet Heeney has been significantly more impressive to date. It was always expected that Mills would move in to the midfield, and with the losses of Jack, Hannebery, McVeigh at times and now Zak Jones, that now would be the perfect time, but the loss of their defensive trio may force him to remain in defence. He showed his quality in the recent Allstars clash so they will be hoping he can translate that to the season proper as the Swans will need him to go to another level this season. Here’s hoping he has it in him, as to date he’s been good, but promises so much more.
4: Who kicks the goals?
If Buddy can’t consistently get on the park, then who kicks the goals? Blakey looks a lock for the Swans for a decade or more, but he also looks a season or two away from being that reliable 40-50 goal forward, whilst the same can be said for Tom McCartin. Sam Reid is inconsistent and injured a lot, though when he’s fit and firing, he’s a decent option up forward. It’s rumored Isaac Heeney has done little work with the midfield group which indicates that he will be spending more time forward, whilst Papley has started the season on fire. I really feel Heeney could be a 40 goal a year forward, in the guise of a Jack Gunston/Jack Darling style role, if left there all year, so maybe it will fall to him?
They do look to have options though, which is important, all they have to do now is get it in their quickly!
5: Can Sam Naismith justify the faith?
He was favoured over Nankervis 3yrs ago, as the Swans let the now two-time premiership ruckman walk to Richmond, however an ACL ended Naismith’s 2018 and further injuries have followed, curtailing his 2019. Having played so little football over the last couple of years hasn’t seemed to concern the Swans, as they have again let a promising ruckman go in Darcy Cameron, who moved to Collingwood in the offseason, again showing they seem to have faith he can be their No.1 ruckman, allowing Sinclair to be No.2. So, the question is, can he justify it. His preseason form has been impressive and he’s gotten miles into his legs. Fingers crossed for him, as the Swans midfield struggled at times last year due to the lack of presence and service offered form Sinclair.
LIKELY ROUND 1 TEAM
B: Dane Rampe, Aliir Aliir, Jake Lloyd
HB: Jordan Dawson, Kaiden Brand, Callum Mills
C: Ollie Florent, Josh Kennedy, James Rowbottom
HF: Isaac Heeney, Tom McCartin, Nick Blakey
F: Will Hayward, Sam Reid, Tom Papley
Foll: Sam Naismith, George Hewitt, Luke Parker
Int: Lewis Taylor, Harry Cunningham, Sam Gray, Callum Sinclair
‘THE VIEWS’ PREDICTION FOR 2020
The Swans come in to this season under different circumstances. They have missed the finals; they have lost key players to retirement and trade and they are commencing a rebuild to help them restore their place at the top of the tree.
Defence is going to be interesting, with so much experience lost. Aliir looks like he becoming a quality AFL defender, whilst the recruitment of Kaiden Brand could bear fruit. He never really got a long run at Hawthorn and seemed to lose confidence quickly as a result. With an extended run he could become a quality AFL defender as well. Lloyd provides the run, Mills the class whilst Rampe is the glue that keeps it all together. However, it’s quite inexperienced and could get scored on a lot if the midfield can’t hold up.
Speaking of their midfield, it’s again going to rely on the old warhorse Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker. Kennedy looked like he’d slowed at the end of last year, however he’s looked great in the preseason to date. Parker is an annoying player, as he has shown himself to be the complete player in terms of ball winnings, hits the scoreboard, strong overhead and disposal, however I feel he lacks consistency which the Swans will need this year. They need a big year from him this season. Florent, Rowbottom, Hewitt and Papley will need to play big parts in the middle and their development as midfielders will be crucial to the Swans season.
Up forward, you have the greatest forward of the last decade, who whilst in decline still has moments of magic and is still incredibly hard to stop, and you have a young group in Heeney, Blakey, Hayward and McCartin who around going to be crucial for the Swans if they are to kick winnings scores. Heeney for me looks the most likely to registered 30+ goals and needs to if the Swans want to make finals this season. Having apparently wanted to leave over the summer, Papley has shown that he is ready to play, having a strong preseason to date in kicking 9 goals across his last 2 games. If Heeney and Papley can have good seasons, and Franklin can get fit, then they will cause headaches for opposition defences.
The Swans have been one of the most consistent sides in the game for the last two decades. They play hard competitive footy, the have been dominant in contested footy and have been difficult to score against. They’ve played finals in 15 of the last 17 years, have 2 flags from 4 grand finals and it’s largely been off the back of strong recruiting and an incredible culture. However, all things must come to an end, and I think the Swans are looking at a few years in the wilderness as they rebuild a list that they have gotten the most out of. In Rowbottom, Hayward, Florent, Papley, Heeney, Mills, Aliir and Blakey, they have the basis for a strong future, but it won’t be this year.
LIKELY FINISH: 13-16