Rhyce Shaw retired last year but the former defender has still played a role in helping Sydney return to the AFL grand final.
Shaw has made a seamless transition to his next career, mentoring the Swans’ reserves and working as a development coach this year.
The 34-year-old, who represented Sydney in the 2012 and 2014 grand finals, was named coach of the year at the NEAFL awards night.
George Hewett, one of seven Swans to make their AFL debut this season, is full of praise for Shaw’s guidance.
“He was my development coach this year … he’s been fantastic,” Hewett told AAP on the eve of his first grand final.
“He was rewarded with NEAFL coach of the year and rightly so, because he spends so much time with us younger guys.
“We couldn’t ask for a better coach or a better person to be there for us.”
Shaw, the son of former Collingwood skipper Ray, joined the Magpies under the father-son rule in 1999.
He was traded to the Swans in 2008, having been suspended for two matches and fined $5000 by Collingwood for excessive drinking during that season.
It proved a life-changing moment, with a matured Shaw becoming part of the Swans’ leadership group and winning their best clubman award in 2011.
Shaw was a mentor for young teammates during his playing career at the SCG and not much has changed this year.
“Rhyce Shaw was always a great person to talk to for support and advice in my first year,” ruckman Sam Naismith said.
“He still is. He’s a bit of a leader, I still chat to him about things.”
Hewett suggested there was no secret to Shaw’s approach, which comes from 15 seasons worth of playing experience.
“He just lets us play .. he’s got full confidence in you and he gives you a lot of confidence,” the 20-year-old said.
“Back when I was playing the trial games he was fantastic. He just tells you to play your natural game. He won’t give you a bake for a mistake because he knows they happen.
“He also knows the balance that we all like to have, that we obviously love footy but also like to switch off as well.”