23/04/2024

Henry Hustwaite, Josh Weddle and Lachlan Cowan are all considerations for Sydney in the 2022 AFL Draft.

The Swans hold four selections in the 2022 AFL draft, with two late first-rounders holding the key to their success. Will the Swans top-up on the run or cash in for a bigger return in the 2023 draft?

Sydney is coming off a forgettable Grand Final performance, however, they’re in a fortunate position where the average age of their side in 2022 was less than 25. Most fans would agree it was a premature Grand Final appearance for the Bloods.

In a draft with a definitive top-end of talent, their first-round selections that sit at 14 and 17 will miss out on most of the big names discussed in the media, however, there’s still plenty of talent around the mark.

Projected bids on Brisbane Father-Sons Will Ashcroft and Jaspa Fletcher will further push the Swans down the line. The Swans are supposedly open to trading out of this year’s first round to strengthen their hand in next year’s draft.

Whatever picks Kinnear Beatson and his team take into draft night, Swans fans will be comfortable knowing they’ll almost certainly walk away with a good prospect.

READ:AFL Draft Power Rankings: The top 50 prospects in 2022

Sydney’s draft hand: 14, 17, 42, 75

2022 AFL Draft: Late teens the ‘perfect place’ to take risks

An even draft pool with a defined top-12 means the Swans will be ready to grab any names that slide outside of their projected range. Barring any shock drops down the draft board, Sydney will have their eye on a multitude of depth options to strengthen its list.

Sydney boasted a ‘rag-tag’ back six through the 2022 season, pundits praised their ability to get the job done despite their inexperience and lack of star power. It would be expected at least one of their earlier picks will carry a defensive capability to re-stock their depth after the retirements of Barry O’Connor and Colin O’Riordan.

Josh Weddle is a 192-centimetre key defender with elite athleticism and versatility, he was a late riser in the draft stocks thanks to a strong showing at the combine with elite sprint and vertical leap tests.

A workhorse for the Oakleigh Chargers in the NAB League this season, his ability to play above his height is a treasured trait at the Swans. He would be a welcome addition to any list, defensive versatility has earned him comparisons to Sydney’s very own Dane Rampe but with improved athleticism that gives him closing speed on the lead.

An eye for intercept marking and eagerness on the counter-attack will find him at home in the fast-paced Swans backline – should he fall to pick 14.

Fellow Victorian Henry Hustwaite will be another name on Beatson’s board. A reliable distributor who looks comfortable both on the ball and moving from half-back. At 194 centimetres, The Dandenong Stingrays product has the potential to be elite in either position.

Hustwaite started the year as an intercepting defender before being injected into the midfielder as a bigger body where he averaged 23 disposals, five clearances and four tackles over 12 games with the Stingrays.

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He has the potential to develop into the bullocking midfielder Sydney is missing after Josh Kennedy’s retirement but will be more than capable of playing as a defender while he fills out his frame.

Outside of defensive prospects, Sydney could make an early play on Isaac Keeler. The Forward/Ruck out of North Adelaide offers eye-catching X-factor when playing forward of the ball.

The delisting of the luckless big man Sam Naismith opens the door for another project ruck. The Swans have shown to have a love for young dual-position big men, most recently Hayden McLean and Joel Amartey. Keeler could be the prodigal ruckman Sydney has so desperately been searching for.

His mobility and athleticism for a 198-centimetre big man gives him one of the higher ceilings in the draft pool, with time needed to develop and hone in on those talents. He was often used as an extra midfielder when playing for North Adelaide, collecting 18 disposals per game on average.

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His physicality could use some improvement to hold him in better stead during ruck and marking contests. Although he finds no issues scoring when forward of the ball, comfortably kicking goals from outside the 50-metre arc and having the capability to gather loose balls below the knees and finishing without issues.

2022 AFL Draft: Will the Swans trade down the line into 2023?

Rumours persist that the Swans may be open to trading picks 14 and 17 to gain a stronger hand in next year’s draft. They may be open to trading both picks individually or packaging them together for a larger return.

After making the Grand Final in their accelerated time frame, the urgency to re-fill on the run doesn’t loom as large over the Swans as it does for other competitors. 11 players from their Grand Final team are aged 24 or younger so there’s no rush to overhaul the list.

Sydney still has talent developing in the wings that are yet to establish themselves in the first team; Angus Sheldrick, Will Gould and Corey Warner all impressed in their VFL side and only managed one appearance between them in 2022.

The Swans likely expect their best 23 will remain much the same into next year so there’s no need to bring in further talent this draft. The list is prepared to deal with an aging Lance Franklin who will almost certainly rest most away games.

Other names on retirement watch will be Dane Rampe, Tom Hickey and Sam Reid. The club has the means to cover these names for the upcoming season but will need thought on how to draft to replace these first-team regulars.

Although it would be near impossible to secure a top-five pick next year from picks 14 and 17, the Swans almost certainly have their eyes on a star-studded crop headlined by Harley Reid, Ashton Moir and Nick Watson who all played impressed in the U18 State Championships as bottom-agers.

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