Although Sydney showed promise, it was unable to prevent a second consecutive year out of the finals, the first time since 1995 that they missed in consecutive years.
16th (5 wins, 12 losses, 82.6%)
The young side struggled with key members of the best 22 missing some or all of the season. They showed some promising signs but struggled to score, ranking 4th last for points scored. They also struggled at the death, losing five of seven games by under 10 points.
In the off-season, Aliir Aliir left for Port Adelaide, while Tom Hickey joined from West Coast. Both the loss of Aliir and the gain of Hickey will result in new players stepping up for Sydney in 2021.
Callum Mills’ long hinted move to Sydney’s midfield looks to finally be on the table, with him playing most of the two practice matches against GWS in the centre, and performing admirably.
The highly-rated trio of Errol Gulden, Logan McDonald, and Braeden Campbell all had strong performances in their AAMI community series match, and all are likely to have stamped their tickets for a round one debut.
Promising young attacking pair Sam Wicks and Chad Warner also had strong showings, leaving John Longmire with plenty of selection headaches for round one.
What to look forward to:
The Cygnets growing up into Swans.
The young bloods continue to develop at the Swans, and they are slowly entering the ideal age bracket to return to the finals picture.
Among the most promising are midfielders Justin McInerney and Dylan Stephens, who both had strong finishes to 2020 and will likely feature early in 2021.
With breakout young stars James Rowbottom, Tom McCartin, and Nick Blakey all having cemented spots in John Longmire’s best 22, and with even more youth waiting in the wings, the future is bright in Sydney.
It’s a big year for:
A few depth players could fall into this category, but some of the biggest questions lie with Ben Ronke.
Ronke burst onto the AFL scene in 2018 with seven goals in just his third game but has since failed to find and match the consistency of regular contributions to the side since his debut season.
The small forward was held goalless in his three games in 2020 before a back issue ruled him out for the season last year.
With no appearances at all during the pre-season, Ronke may be on the outer with the Swans at this stage, and as more young talent continues to emerge at Sydney, it may be a long way back to the best 22 for him.
Biggest unanswered question:
Will Buddy be Back?
The biggest unanswered question for Sydney is when they will have Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin lining up again at the top level.
Buddy played zero games last season as he battled a range of hamstring, groin, and knee injuries, and has suffered another setback in the lead-up to this season with a tight calf.
Swans fans and AFL fans deserve nothing less than seeing Buddy at his damaging best again, so Sydney will be hoping Buddy can take the field at some point this year and string some games together.
Coach pressure index:
When North Melbourne went sniffing for one of their favourite sons in 2019, the Swans moved quickly to secure their longest-serving coach until 2023.
Now in his 11th season, John Longmire is overseeing a full rebuild at the Swans and early signs are good that he will be there when it is complete and Sydney is a contender once again.
As long as the Cygnets continue to grow under his tutelage, Longmire will have no issues seeing out the rest of his contract.
Ins: Braeden Campbell (National Draft- Pennant Hills/ Swans Academy), Malachy Carruthers (Rookie Draft – Sturt), Errol Gulden (National Draft – UNSW Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs/ Swans Academy), Tom Hickey (Traded- West Coast), Logan McDonald (National Drat – Perth), Marc Sheather (Category B Rookie -Pennant Hills)
Outs: Aliir Aliir (Traded – Port Adelaide), Michael Knoll (Delisted), Jack Maibaum (Delisted), Zac Foot (Delisted), Harry Reynolds (Delisted), Brady Rowles (Delisted), Ryley Stoddart (Delisted), Elijah Taylor (Delisted), Jackson Thurlow (Delisted)
Predicted Rd 1 line-up:
B: Jake Lloyd, Dane Rampe, Hary Cunningham
HB: Jacob Dawson, Tom McCartin, Braeden Campbell
C: Ollie Florent, Josh Kennedy, Callum Mills
HF: Isaac Heeney, Logan McDonald, Nick Blakey
F: Tom Papley, Sam Reid, Will Hayward
R: Tom Hickey, Luke Parker, James Rowbottom
I/C Errol Gulden, George Hewett, Sam Wicks, Chad Warner
Gradual improvement will continue at the Swans in 2021. A finals berth is not completely unlikely, but it may be too soon. Expect more development and more youngsters being blooded.