16/04/2024

How will the NSW's latest expansion side go on debut? (Picture: Sydney Swans AFLW/Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson)

The Sydney Swans AFLW team will make their own history in AFLW season seven, 40 years after the Swans first broke ground in the Harbour City.

Snapshot:

With a solid, if not exactly eye-catching list, the answer likely lies with how a handful of highly regarded, but opportunity-starved players gel together in the one place.

Sarah Dargan had locked down spots at both Collingwood and Richmond previously, but after just three games in season six after playing all nine the year before, the forward/midfielder made the move again and will relish the extra opportunity the Swans hopefully provide.

Twice discarded midfielder Alana Woodward will also hope to break through in red and white, having only managed seven games in three seasons of AFLW. She dominated the recent VFLW season though, averaging 17.6 disposals and 7.7 tackles a game.

Others such as Brenna Tarrant and Lisa Steane will bring the experience, and the likes of former AFLW leading goalkicker Brooke Lochland will (among others) bring the leadership.

Alana Woodward will be relishing another chance at the highest level in Sydney. (Picture: St Kilda FC)

What to look forward to:

The Swans Academy has long been a talking point for the men’s side, with their access to some of the most promising young players in the AFL. But a big win for the women’s side of the academy came when alumni Ruby Sargent-Wilson became the very first signing to the Swans AFLW side.

Sargent-Wilson joined the Swans Academy in 2021 and is noted for her athleticism, having played netball, touch football and AFL at state level in the same year. At the Under 18 Championships, she amassed 23 touches and eight tackles in two matches.

Another NSW talent is Ella Heads, who also had a strong two matches at the U/18 Championships, with 24 touches and eight tackles as well. Both Heads and Sargent-Wilson are good chances to debut Round One, a huge win for development in the area.

The signing of Ruby Sargent-Wilson as the first member of the squad is a huge step for local talent. (Picture: Sydney Swans)

Biggest unanswered question:

The biggest question lies in the Swans attempts to lure some of the AFLW’s biggest names, such as Ellie Blackburn and Ash Riddell. Failing in their pursuits leaves them as the only expansion team with no clear focal point.

As a result, it may turn out to be not one, but many contributing to a successful first campaign. The likes of Dargan, Bella Smith, Steane and Tarrant are among many who will be determined to make a go in the Harbour City, having struggled to lock down spots previously.

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Meanwhile, the Swans will relish the forward line led by Lochland, holder of the individual AFLW match goal-kicking record with seven in 2018.

And with a very generous draft hand that saw them secure Montana Ham and Sofia Hurley, two very highly regarded midfielders, the lack of focal points now may not be such an issue later.

AFLW Season Seven: Sydney Swans
No focal point now, but with three top 20 draft picks, maybe later. (Picture: Sydney Swans AFLW/Twitter)

It’s a big year for:

Touted as a potential top 30 draft pick in her draft year of 2021, many pundits were shocked when Jaide Anthony was left undrafted on the board.

Undaunted, Anthony went back to the Dandenong Stingrays and took her game to the next level in 2022, recording personal best stats across the board, averaging 15.0 disposals, 2.9 marks, and 1.3 goals a game.

The extra time at lower level was enough to secure her a spot on the Swans inaugural list, and Anthony will undoubtedly be ready to showcase her skills in red and white and prove her credentials at AFLW level.

Jaide Anthony will have a point to prove in season seven. (Image: Sydney Swans)

Fixture highlights:

R1: vs. St Kilda

You never forget your first, and for the Sydney AFLW team, the girls will want to break ground in the best way possible with victory in its first AFLW clash against St Kilda.

With the Saints having finished second last in the 2022-A season, the Swan girls will be sensing an early opportunity to get off the mark early and start the inaugural campaign with a win.

Adding to this, Alana Woodward, having been recently delisted by the Saints, is a chance to line up against her former club, which could potentially be extra spice for this clash.

R3: vs. Greater Western Sydney

A local derby. A Swans AFLW SCG debut. What more could you want?

The Sydney Derby is a twice-yearly highlight on the AFL men’s calendar, and after an exhibition match way back in 2016, finally, with season seven, it’s the women’s turn for their own official AFLW derby.

The tables have turned for the local rivals, with GWS the older sibling, having been an inaugural member of AFLW way back in 2017.

But with three ex-Giants under its belt, Lisa Steane, Ally Morphett, and Rebecca Privitelli, Sydney will be striving to do what no expansion club has done to date and defeat its local rival. To do it in their first meeting would be the icing on the cake.

R7: vs. Gold Coast

A matchup against a fellow expansion team has a special tag to it, as it will be the first of two games the Swans will play at the historic Henson Park.

The Giants broke ground on the oval that has been home to rugby league (among other sports) for nearly 90 years with their own first game on the oval in the 2022-A season of AFLW.

With the Park set to become the Swans’ home ground in 2023, the girls will begin to make it a fortress in AFLW with a first-up win against a lower-ranked opponent.

Will Henson Park become a fortress for Sydney’s AFLW side? (Picture: Sydney Swans AFLW/Twitter)

Full fixture:

R1: vs. St Kilda, August 27 (North Sydney Oval)

R2: vs. Collingwood, September 4 (Victoria Park)

R3: vs. Greater Western Sydney, September 10 (SCG)

R4: vs. Port Adelaide, September 17 (Alberton Oval)

R5: vs. Hawthorn, September 23 (Swinburne Centre)

R6: vs. North Melbourne, October 2 (Arden St Oval)

R7: vs. Gold Coast, October 8 (Henson Park)

R8: vs. Essendon, October 15 (Ikon Park)

R9: vs. Fremantle, October 22 (Henson Park)

R10: vs Geelong, TBC (GMHBA stadium)

Inaugural squad:

Jaide Anthony, Kiara Beesley, Montana Beruldsen, Tiarne Cavanagh (rookie) Maddy Collier, Sarah Dargan, Molly Eastman, Sarah Ford, Montana Ham, Cynthia Hamilton, Lexi Hamilton, Ella Heads, Sofia Hurley, Zoe Hurrell, Bridie Kennedy, Genevieve Lawson Tavan (injury replacement player), Brooke Lochland, Ally Morphett, Aliesha Newman, Rebecca Privitelli, Ruby Sargent-Wilson, Paige Sheppard, Sarah Skinner, Bella Smith, Lisa Steane, Lauren Szigeti, Brenna Tarrant, Eliza Vale, Aimee Whelan, Alana Woodward.

Inactive: Alice Mitchell (Knee)

Predicted Round 1 line-up:

Ladder range: 10th-14th

The Swans AFLW side is one of the great unknowns of the 2022-B AFLW season, arguably more so than any of the four expansion sides.

The new side will have zero expectations as well, given their status as the new kids on the block. Alongside Hawthorn, Essendon and Port Adelaide, there’s no expectation of early success, but plenty of potential to get there.

The mid-lower table is a fair early assessment and depending on their luck with injuries and how the side gels, this may be bumped up/down as the season progresses.

It’s going to be an interesting year, and the Swans will definitely be one to watch.

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