16/04/2024
The Swans' climb back into finals in 2021 was a shock to most. Whether Sydney can back it up 2022 is its biggest question this year.

The Swans’ climb back into finals in 2021 was a shock to most. Whether Sydney can back it up in 2022 is its biggest question this year.

Last Season:

6th (15-7), 119.9%

Coming off the back of back to back seasons at the bottom, just about everyone believed it would be a few more years until the Swans would taste finals again.

Exploding out of the blocks in round one, the Swans’ season kicked off with a dream start, knocking off premiership contenders, Brisbane, whilst blooding their three new draftees.

It was the 39-point win over the reigning premiers in round three that really made everyone start paying attention to what was happening at Sydney.

Chad Warner announced himself against the Tigers, and was rewarded with a rising star nomination, the third for the Swans in as many games after Errol Gulden and Braeden Campbell were the round one and two nominations.

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The Swans rode that wave of excitement and momentum throughout the series, proving pundits wrong each week who believed the success wasn’t sustainable.

Meeting cross-town rivals, GWS, in an elimination final, the Swans were heartbreakingly sent packing, falling just one point short after kicking six consecutive behinds in the final term.

Ins:

Peter Ladhams (Traded – Port Adelaide), Paddy McCartin (SSP), Lachlan Rankin (Pick 58, National Draft / Oakleigh Chargers), Matthew Roberts (Pick 34, National Draft/ South Adelaide), Angus Sheldrick (Pick 18, National Draft/ Claremont), Corey Warner (Pick 40, National Draft / East Fremantle)

Outs:

Kaiden Brand (Delisted), Malachy Carruthers (Delisted), Jordan Dawson (Traded – Adelaide), Sam Gray (Delisted), George Hewett (Free Agent – Carlton), Matthew Ling (Delisted)

Track Watch:

The name on everybody’s lips, Lance Franklin, has thankfully had an uninterrupted pre-season, being carefully managed to ensure he kicks off the 2022 season as fit as possible.

The 35-year-old will be competing in his 18th AFL season since being drafted back in 2004, eyeing off the opportunity to kick his 1000th career goal early on. Franklin is just five goals away from the mammoth achievement and will be keen to get it out of the way after sitting so close to it all pre-season.

An Achilles injury disrupted the back end of the 2021 season for Callum Mills and saw him miss out on the elimination final against GWS.

Elevated into a co-captaincy role this pre-season, the former Swans academy prospect has been carefully managed in preparation for round one.

However, Mills did manage to get some game time in the AAMI Community series match against the Kangaroos. With limited minutes, Mills was able to collect 15 disposals and laid eight tackles in just 41% time on ground.

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Former number one draft pick and new Swans recruit, Paddy McCartin, looked right at home during both of Sydney’s pre-season hitouts.

Many believing the former Saint needed to earn his selection before making a senior appearance, consider the door that needed knocking down, now 10 feet under as he looks set to feature in the round one lineup.

What to look forward to:

Even more youth development

This is beginning to sound like a broken record, but the level of youth at the Swans is astonishing.

The Swans boast an incredible 23 players under the age of 24 heading into round one, with 15 of them having featured at the senior level.

Unlike last year, the latest group of draftees will have to wait a bit longer than last year did to make their debut with the Swans’ best 23 in a far stronger position than 12 months ago.

2022 will see this (quite large) crop of youngsters yet again make further progression in their development and add further quality to Sydney’s depth.

Positional Changes

The big one is Isaac Heeney‘s highly anticipated move into the midfield after spending 2021 in the forward line.

Heeney became a relied upon goalscorer for the Swans but it’s felt that he’s not being used to his maximum ability.

John Longmire has said from the outset to expect a move into the midfield for Heeney this season, however, a pre-season hamstring injury suffered by Tom Papley might prolong this move later than hoped.

Nick Blakey and Justin McInerney will continue their development on the half-back flanks. Both players became known for their line-breaking pace and ability to drive forward 50 entries for the Swans late in 2021. Expect more of the same in 2022.

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Sam Reid‘s career at Sydney is in the balance this season after receiving a one-year contract extension late in 2021 with the Swans taking their time to weigh up the decision to do so.

A switch to the backline is on the cards and could prove to be a move that revives his career after falling out of favour with the coaches in the Swans’ best 23 ahead of the 2021 finals.

It’s a big year for:

On the back of signing a monster six-year contract extension with the Swans, it’s time for Isaac Heeney to become the face of Sydney.

It’s been discussed at length throughout pre-season that he’ll be moved into the midfield, and now after being backed with a lengthy deal, the expectation is for him to become Sydney’s top dog.

Surrounded by elite company in Luke Parker and Callum Mills, as well as the expertise and leadership of Josh Kennedy, Heeney must elevate his ability to become a ball-winner for Sydney and reliable member of Sydney’s midfield.

This is what Sydney fans have been waiting for since he was drafted from the Swans academy, and now is the time to deliver.

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Biggest unanswered question:

Can the Swans back it up?

No one predicted the Swans play finals last season, it was one of the biggest shocks of the competition.

Now the expectation for Sydney is that’ll improve once again as the youth develop even further, but is that really a given?

The reputation built over the 2021 season will result in opposition doing extra homework on the side, additionally, whilst this particular group is impressive, youthful sides are often inconsistent.

The biggest challenge for the Swans will be to maintain the same rate of progression and a new level of expectation will create pressure on the squad to perform.

Coaching pressure index:

Low

It’d have to be a catastrophic season for the Sydney Swans if John Longmire was to be forced out of the club in 2022.

The now veteran coach has been with the Swans for 20 years now, working under Paul Roos for his first nine with the club before taking the head position in 2011.

Longmire has taken the Swans to three grand final appearances with the 2012 premiership the highlight of his coaching career to date.

During a turbulent period in recent seasons whilst the Swans worked through a squad rebuild, Longmire faced scrutiny for poor performance and a lack of willingness to adapt to the team’s playing style.

In 2021, those critics were silenced as the Swans’ playing style appeared to completely shift and the team’s performances exceeded everyone’s pre-season expectations.

Overcoming that trial period has resulted in Longmire’s position at the club being stronger than ever.

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Predicted Round 1 lineup:

Ladder range:

5th-10th

Coming into the new season with fresh expectations for the Swans to improve once again, there’s every chance they will.

However, the reality is that this side is still relatively young and inconsistency could very well frustrate the fans that expect more.

Opposition sides will put more homework into breaking down the Swans’ new attacking style of play that they’re now more aware of.

On paper, the Swans are a lot stronger than they were 12 months ago, so you’d have to say that 15 wins should be par for this squad.

But on the other hand, we know the Swans are capable of giving up premiership points in games they should win.

Whether these young bloods rise to the occasion once again? It’s anyone’s guess.

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