For the Swans, 2016 was another anti-climatic season, that promised so much yet failed to deliver. While there were echo’s of the 2014 grand final loss to Hawthorn, with even Josh Kennedy declaring that the loss hurt more, the performance was more reflective and symptomatic of losses earlier in the season to both Greater Western Sydney and Western Bulldogs. In hindsight, the Swans were outworked and outplayed in the final game of the season, even though it was avoidable.
For the AFL, dreams and fairytales come true. The Swans had to overcome unprecedented interference from league headquarters and still finished 1st and made the grand final. One cannot begrudge the Doggies for winning the big game, they had to win it from 7th and break their own 62 year drought. All Swans supporters experienced that joy in 2005, so we know what its like to win one, but unfortunately, we also know what its like to lose one.
Upon reflection, the season was full of positives and one of our best in recent history. Finishing first with a young, developing squad, Parker finishing 2nd in the Brownlow and having 5 players represent the club in the final All Australian team, with another 3 stiff to not make the final 40. Apart from the GWS loss mid-way through the season, the team was very competitive with the next largest losing margin 10 points. The finals started off poorly, but convincing wins against Adelaide and Geelong put the Swans in a fantastic position to pick up their 3rd flag in 10 years.
For some clubs, success is measured in membership numbers, making the finals, or just breaking even in the win/loss category. For the Swans, fans and supporters are so used to success, that finishing top 4 is merely a pass mark and making grand finals is the ultimate goal. Since 2000, the Swans have played the most finals of any team, more than the champion teams of Brisbane Lions, Geelong and Hawthorn.
There’s a lot of things to be proud of this season as a Swans supporter. Our younger players Aliir Aliir, Mills, Hewett, Naismith, Heeney and Papley came on leaps and bounds with Aliir tragically missing the grand final through injury. Marsh performed well and kept Laidler out of the team, even when fit. Long term injuries to Reid, Talia, Tippet and Sinclair allowed players like Naismith, Papley and Marsh to play in the senior team regularly without threat of being dropped back to the reserves because of list restrictions.
Our grand final team was the youngest one we’ve fielded in the last 20 years and is a testament to rebuilding on the run. The AFL banned the Swans for 2 years from trading and it turned out to be the best thing the league could have done for the club, forcing it to promote from within. Even the two recruits from last season Talia and Sinclair failed to have much of an impact on the season, with Talia out for the season in the first game and Sinclair failing to regain his position after injury and the incredible form of Naismith and Nankervis.
Sadly, with success means that some players will move on because we simply can’t afford them all. Growing in stature and popularity, the bash and crash ruckman Nankervis is unlikely to be extended, with several clubs reported interested in recruiting him. When compared to Callum Sinclair, their stats are similar, although fans mostly agree that Nankervis is more aggressive and hits the contests harder, resulting in more defensive and pressure acts.
Tom Mitchell is yet to sign another contract with the Swans, having been heavily linked with Hawthorn for some time. While he’s yet to put his hand up Jaegar O’Meara style, he certainly hasn’t rebuffed their flirtations. His manager is on record saying that the Swans have to up the dollars or else he could be on the move.
At this stage, yes. The ball is in their court. He has been here for five years and is very settled in Sydney. His best friends are in Sydney. The temptation to stay here is very good.
There haven’t been any offers. People are saying that, but they know more than me. I haven’t seen one.
This trade period is expected to to be a busy one, with Dean Towers, Ben McGlynn, Harrison Marsh and Xavier Richards possibly on the way out having not been offered, or signed extensions. Ted Richards has already announced his retirement from the game, while there’s been speculation that McGlynn may also retire, stuck in the same situation as Boomer Harvey.
Bring on the trade period!