Sydney’s rejuvenation revolution is well under way, as the Swans strive to continue their amazing knack of being able to defy the laws of AFL gravity.
Losing five players with almost 1000 games of experience from last season prompted many observers to suggest the Swans were finally going to bottom out and start plummeting in the ladder.
This is a club that has made the finals the last six years, 12 of the last 13 and 17 of the past 20.
In all that time, Sydney have never missed out on the playoffs in successive years.
The cost of living allowance has certainly helped, but smart drafting and shrewd trading ensured the club never went into freefall on the ladder.
The cynics shook their heads when the team for last week’s season opener against Collingwood was announced.
It included three players making their AFL debut, 11 players aged 23 or under and 12 with 53 games or less experience.
There wasn’t a single player over 29 in the team and even the code’s youngest clubs GWS and Gold Coast had a couple of over-30 veterans in their side for the opening round games.
This seemingly added up to a youthful Sydney being ripe for the plucking by a confident Collingwood side coming off a hugely encouraging pre-season.
Wrong. The Pies were smashed by 80 points and Swans fans revelled in the assured debuts of Callum Mills (18 possessions), George Hewett (15 possessions, seven marks, seven tackles and one goal) and Tom Papley (11 possessions, three goals and five tackles).
“Under that real pressure early in that game round one, when it’s right on the whips are cracking, the kids were pretty good,” Swans’ coach John Longmire said.
“Our younger kids have been playing their role when they get an opportunity and playing pretty well the last couple of years.”
Although it represented Sydney’s biggest infusion of raw talent in 26 years, the Swans didn’t send a fresh-faced bunch of callow kids into combat against the Pies without heavy duty older support.
Saturday’s team included seven players with over 140 games experience, spearheaded by Lance Franklin (222), who Longmire praised for his stewardship of the younger forwards.
The only Swans aged 30 and over on their list, co-captain Jarrad McVeigh (who turns 31 next week), Ben McGlynn 30 and Ted Richards 33, all missed the opening round win.
However Richards and McGlynn both came through a reserves game on the weekend and should come under consideration for next Sunday’s clash with Carlton, with McVeigh expected to return in the next couple of weeks.
With two exciting and proven 24-year-olds in Sam Reid and Gary Rohan also expected back from injury in coming weeks, Sydney’s depth this year may not be as shallow as some of the pundits predicted.
THE SWANS YOUNG GUNS, 21 and under with fewer than 20 senior games.
*CALLUM MILLS 18 1 game
*TOM PAPLEY 19 1
*GEORGE HEWETT 20 1
*DANIEL ROBINSON 21 5
*ISAAC HEENEY 19 15
*ZAK JONES 21 16