Sydney champion Dan Hannebery has revealed the Swans have worked hard on their ball movement into the forward line and have no intention of sliding down the AFL ladder as some pundits are predicting.
Stung by tumbling out of the 2015 finals in straight sets, Sydney have worked on tweaking their game to ensure they remain among the premiership heavyweights.
One area is their delivery into the forward line, where they possess strong marking targets in Lance Franklin, Kurt Tippett and Sam Reid, but were only the sixth-highest scoring team after the 2015 home-and-away season.
“We thought there was some positives to take out of the finals, although we’ve identified some areas we needed to work on – different ball-movement things,” Hannebery said on Monday.
“Some ball movement into the forward line, which we’ve been working really hard on this pre-season and need to do throughout the year.
“We think that’s probably our gap.”
The perennial finalists who have won 15 or more games the past four seasons and made two grand finals in that time, Sydney have missed the top eight just once in 13 seasons.
The loss of five premiership players with almost 1000 games’ experience – Adam Goodes, Rhyce Shaw, Lewis Jetta, Mike Pyke and Craig Bird – has prompted suggestions 2016 might be the year Sydney finally bottom out and hit the skids.
Hannebery was adamant that wouldn’t be the case, placing his faith in the anticipated improvement of several younger Swans.
“I’m really confident with the guys we’ve traded and drafted and young guys that have played 20 or 30 games, that there’s enough to come in and fill the roles we need to,” Hannebery said.
“If you look at the list on paper, it’s still really strong and I’m still really confident that if everyone is out there on the park and playing to near their potential, then we will have a really strong year.”
Hannebery compares the Swans’ situation to his earliest years at the club, when they lost several senior stars including Brett Kirk and Michael O’Loughlin, but had other players step up.
He expects the emerging talents of Dean Towers, Brandon Jack and Dan Robinson to do that and predicts improvement from Harry Cunningham and Jake Lloyd.
At 24, and with 144 games under his belt, 2015 All Australian and AFL Coaches’ Association player of the year Hannebery said he was trying to help develop younger players and improve his leadership ability.
“It’s still got a long way to go and that’s an area where I think I can take my game to another level,” he said.