SYDNEY will still be contending for the premiership next year but this list is getting older and it’s time for the club to put its faith in the draft.
I wouldn’t be too concerned by the semi-final loss — obviously the club would be disappointed but I think the season caught up with them in the end and it wasn’t a true reflection of where the Swans are at as a club.
Being 0-6 and basically playing elimination finals all year, to even finish in the top eight would have taken a huge toll on the players.
What that poor start to the season did do though, was expose the depth at Sydney. The Swans had quite a few injury troubles with Isaac Heeney, Kieren Jack, Jarrad McVeigh, Dane Rampe, Gary Rohan and Tom Papley all missing several early-season matches and John Longmire was forced to rely on first year players like Will Hayward and Ollie Florent — who will be good players eventually — or depth players like Dan Robinson and Jordan Foote.
When these players did return, and they had a very good run with injuries from about Round 7 onwards and didn’t make too many changes, it allowed the side to stabilise and get back to producing the footy we know Sydney can.
It just goes to show you that even though the Swans have been a powerhouse for five to six years now, even they are searching for the depth required to be able to comfortably cover injuries without losing too much in terms of performance.
But I don’t think it’s panic stations at all for the Swans despite the possible depth issue. We saw just how good this side can be and I expect it to again be challenging in 2018.
I was glad to see the Swans weren’t big trade players this year because I believe the club really needs to hold onto its early draft picks this year and next to bring in elite young talent to refresh the list and get the next wave of stars coming through. Buddy, Jack, Parker, Kennedy, McVeigh and these types aren’t getting any younger.
The only circumstances I would trade a first or second-round pick over the next two years is for a forward-ruckman or an established player with outside speed and skill.
It’s time to look 2-3 years down the track for the Swans.
Sydney has a great development program so should back that in as a club to get that next generation in as we’ve seen the likes of Zak Jones, Jake Lloyd and to a lesser extent Nic Newman cement their spots as best 22 players.
Unfortunately, the player the Swans really miss is Toby Nankervis. Sydney do a lot right in terms of list management but they missed the mark on this one — he should have been the one to stay at the club over Sam Naismith because he can also go forward and take a mark. Naismith on the other hand is purely a ruckman and we know that in the modern game, ruckmen and most talls for that matter, need another string to their bow.
In fairness to Sydney though, the knock on Nankervis was always his fitness because he couldn’t cover the ground and it looks like he put in a really strong pre-season ahead of his first year at the Tigers.
The Swans get caught out still with lack of pace on the outside and I’d like to potentially see Gary Rohan used behind the ball more often to see if he could possibly become that link-up player. Nic Newman really came on this year and showed he’s a nice player for the future who can create and run off halfback but they need a few more of those types of players.
What do the Swans do with Kurt Tippett? I would have actively shopped him around to clubs during the trade period but the word out of the Swans was they were happy to have him on the list for 2018. Surely, given the kind of money he is on and the fact he has battled injury and form, the best strategy would have been to move some of his money out of the salary cap and get the best deal possible, whether it’s a draft pick or a player.
He’s not a bad guy, Kurt, he’s a good fella but to me, the time had come for he and Sydney to part ways. Maybe the Swans know something we don’t and it will be a masterstroke? Time will tell.
WHAT THEY NEED
I know on the surface it appears the Swans don’t need key defenders but Heath Grundy isn’t going to play forever. He has been remarkably durable and consistent but he is 31 and has maximum one or two more year left. Who will take over from him? Aliir Aliir was touted as the man but for whatever reason has fallen out of favour and Michael Talia has been delisted. A key defender is a critical need for the Swans, both experienced and developing.
Where does Tippett fit? What about Callum Sinclair? Who is the preferred option and are they good enough to be in the Swans’ next premiership side? A decision needs to be made at Sydney.
Is Sinclair is the type of player who will take them to a flag playing that role forward/ruck role? He’s doing the job adequately for now but he’s too inconsistent and gets exposed on bigger grounds. Sydney played its best footy when Tippett was marking it up forward alongside Buddy who could be released further up the ground and then Sam Reid in the mix when fit. But Tippett hasn’t reached anywhere near that form of late.
Finding that player is important for the structure is critical to Sydney’s ability to challenge for a premiership. Darcy Cameron could possibly fill the role but was injured for most of the year.
I also still think the Swans get caught on the outside with their lack of speed on bigger grounds. With their early picks in the draft, if they don’t trade them away’ I’d be looking for midfielders or half backs with pace, endurance and kicking ability.
UNDER THE PUMP
Tippett is the obvious one.
The assumption was the Swans would shop him around during the trade period but football manager Tom Harley said that wasn’t going to be the case, which really surprised me. He is on a lot of money, Tippett, and outside of potentially 30-40 good games he really hasn’t delivered on his promise or what you’d expect from a player earning the type of money he has commanded. Can he get back to anywhere near his best? The pressure is on and the clock is ticking.
What is going on with Aliir Aliir? He played basically all of last year and this year languished in the NEAFL. He has talent but whatever the reason is — whether it’s off-field stuff or on-field performance and areas he needs to work on — he must respond and force his way back in. The Swans need a player like him in defence and if he doesn’t grab his chance then that spells trouble.
James Rose has been around for a while and didn’t get a look in when the Swans had injury troubles so I’m not sure where his future sits.
Foote was touted as the replacement for Mitchell but he really didn’t perform when he got his opportunities so he’ll need to really push for a Round 1 spot over the pre-season. The time is now or he’ll be moved on.
BUCKY’S LIST CHANGES
Jeremy Laidler and Shaun Edwards have retired, while Talia, Brandon Jack, Tyrone Leonardis, Alex Johnson and rookie Sam Fisher have been delisted. I know its tough on Johnson but footy is a cutthroat industry and the Swans have done a lot for him and stuck by him through five years of bad luck with injuries. Unfortunately, there comes a time when you have to call time on it and I think the time is right now for Johnson and the Swans to part ways and move on.
Foote and Rose have major question marks over them and I’d move them on if the Swans need another spot or two on the list. They will be lucky to survive into season 2018.
Sydney will again be one of the teams to beat in 2018 and will well and truly be in the hunt to finish in the top four to give itself the best chance to reach that last Saturday in September. While there is a potential depth issue at the Swans, as long as the likes of Parker, Kennedy, Hannebery, Franklin, Heeney, Mills and Reid are producing good footy then they will be a threat. The Swans should be challenging for the next 2-3 years and must win one in that period.
Lance Franklin was brought to the club to win premierships and if they do win one or two then it will be deemed as a success. I know he has done a lot for the growth of the game and to get fans to the ground to watch them play but if Sydney don’t win a flag (or multiple flags) with Franklin then that deal will be judged accordingly. The Swans have had to clear room in the salary cap to accommodate the Buddy deal (and Tippett) — Shane Mumford was one who was forced out and Tom Mitchell too — and if they don’t win some silverware then questions will be asked about whether that deal cost the team its structure and ability to win because it would have had a more even spread of talent. AFL clubs exist to win premierships.