Errol Gulden celebrates a goal. (Photo: AFL)

Sydney Swans Academy talent Errol Gulden has had a year to remember, consistently putting on good performances. After being voted the AFLPA’s Best First Year Player he has proved to critics that he will lead the next era of the club.

Debuting last year, the young talent has cemented a regular spot in the team. He can be seen putting pressure on the opposition players, kicking accurately with both feet and scoring goals.

Crowned the AFLPA’s Best First Year Player, his contributions are not going unnoticed. Starting his career with a Rising Star nomination and two Brownlow votes, he couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.

He finished the 2021 season with 15.7 disposals, 4.4 marks, three tackles and nearly a goal a game.

Heading into the season many critics believed that he would struggle after a great first year. Playing on his mind, Gulden wasn’t worried that he would get the second year blues.

“I wasn’t too worried about that at all. I’m pretty confident in my training standards and [how] that would carry me through the year,” the youngster said.

“Ultimately [at the] end of the week, the night before the game, [I] put my head on the pillow knowing I’ve done everything.”

Scouted as someone to watch out for in the future, Gulden was selected at pick 32. He was described as a consistent performer who has all the tools in his arsenal.

This ranges from his footy IQ, to his kicking ability, all the way down to his vision when he has the ball.

In his developmental days, he averaged 27.3 disposals, 1.3 goals, and six marks. This earned him U16s All-Australian honours as he guided the UNSW-Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs to the grand final.

Even without the ball, he has provided the Swans with an easy target, getting away from his opposing player. His versatility can see him play multiple positions on a given day. Whether it be in defence or attack, his presence around the ball has helped the Swans.

There has been much discussion on where he will be playing in years to come. Originally playing as a forward, he has slowly transitioned into the midfield this season.

“I haven’t really thought that far ahead. I’m kind of worrying about this year,” Gulden said.

“Last year I played majority as a forward, and I’ve gotten a little bit higher up the ground this year, playing on the wing and going through centre bounce.

“I did play a lot of my junior footy and under-age footy through the midfield, so you never know.

“I think it’s probably more so what the team needs and whether that changes next year or in the years to come, so be it.

“At the moment I’m really enjoying where I’m playing. I love being able to have the choice [and] being able to have the versatility to be able to go up the ground.”

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Gulden has been one of the Swans’ best in recent weeks, with his season-best performance against the GWS Giants two weeks ago. He notched up 24 kicks on his way to 33 disposals and two goals.

“I think I’m probably playing some of my best footy at the moment. It obviously helps when the team’s playing good footy as well,” he continued.

“It is nice to string a couple of good games together, but I think it is down to the team playing good footy and just trying to do that every week.”

Averaging 19.7 disposals, 13.7 kicks and 4.5 marks per game, there are no signs of slowing down. As finals approach, he will be hoping to put on the accelerator and keep growing his form.

Gulden credits his success to the Sydney Swans Academy, where he has been since the age of 10. It helped tailor his skills and develop him into a better player.

“I joined the academy at about age 10 and, from that young age group, they’re instilling pillars of the Bloods culture into your training standards and how you look after yourself off [the] field with recovery and nutrition,” the Academy star said.

“Coaches like Nick Davis and Jared Crouch, passing all their knowledge down, helped me make the step under 18 footy into playing AFL footy.

“[There is] no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be playing for the Swans if it wasn’t for the Academy.”

Gulden is nearly averaging 20 disposals a game this season. (Photo: Sydney Swans)

Sitting fourth on the ladder after a win against North Melbourne, Sydney has high hopes of reaching the Grand Final. With two more games remaining, both are must-win.

This week’s game against Collingwood will be a blockbuster, as both teams try to stay in the top four. Following that, they face St Kilda, not to be taken lightly despite patchy form. The return of captain Jack Steele has reignited the club in previous weeks.

“The reason why you play footy is to have a crack at the flag every year,” Gulden said.

“It’s good to be in a spot where at least we’re not out of it. We’re looking to play finals. Everyone wants to play finals and play the big games and everyone wants to win [the] flag.”

Continuing the Gulden footy legacy, Errol’s mum Bronwyn will be starting a role with the club in the AFLW as an assistant coach. The new AFLW season begins in a few weeks and will be the first time Sydney Swans will compete.

“It’s awesome for her. It’s awesome for all those girls to get the opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream that a lot of them have had as well,” Gulden said about his mum Bronwyn.

“I kind of wish that it was around [when] my mum was younger and wish she got the chance to play footy.

“She’s loving coaching and being a part of the club. She’s loving every moment and I’m so glad that she’s able to kind of live out her childhood dream, albeit coaching.”

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