The Sydney Swans have created a solid foundation for its AFLW journey, despite not registering a win in its debut season.
Finishing position: 18th (0 wins, 10 losses)
With limited big-name talent lured over to the inaugural Sydney AFLW side, it was critical for the Swans to nail the draft at the first time of asking. Which they did.
The Swans were incredibly thankful to not lose Montana Ham to a season-ending knee injury in round one, with her quickly returning and fast showing the skill that saw her taken with the number one pick, becoming the Swans first ever Rising Star nominee, earning the accolade with 20 disposals and five tackles against Port Adelaide.
Meanwhile, Sofia Hurley became the Swans’ second Rising Star nominee after 15 touches and a goal against Fremantle in round nine, and Cynthia Hamilton became a quick fan favourite with her distinctive red and white helmet. Hamilton averaged 10 disposals across her nine games, culminating in a rising star nomination to finish the year.
A young side was going to be prone to lapses, and, as a result, the Swans were on the end of some pretty heavy defeats throughout the season, with five sides (Port Adelaide, GWS, North Melbourne, Geelong, and Gold Coast) registering its all-time greatest winning margin at the hands of the Swans.
Among the most demoralising was the result against North Melbourne, which saw the Swans register just a single rushed behind, becoming the first AFLW side not to have a single shot on goal during a match.
The Swans were always going to be a work in progress throughout their inaugural season, and have indeed made some inroads, but these few lopsided results showcased how far they still have to go to truly compete in AFLW.
A silver lining of the Swans’ lopsided results was the mountain of opportunity afforded to defenders to prove their skills, and a few stood above the rest.
Brenna Tarrant took the opportunity to move home from Melbourne after 15 games in three seasons in the red and blue and already looks at home in the Sydney defence, playing every game, and taking the third most marks of anyone at the Swans with 21, averaging 2.1 a game.
Another player who broke out for the Swans is Bella Smith, who moved to the Harbour City after 10 games at Collingwood in two seasons, and, like Tarrant, played every game for the Swans. Smith took the second most marks for the year, with 25, behind Rebecca Privitelli.
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Smith also showcased her versatility in sharing the ruck load with Ally Morphett, registering 16 hitouts for the year.
And in welcome news for homegrown talent, Ella Heads hit the ground running after joining the Swans as an open-age recruit from Inner West Magpies, registering the second most disposals for the year for the Swans with 104, just one behind Molly Eastman.
Heads played beyond her years, taking on some big jobs and providing plenty of pressure, averaging three tackles a game.
The Swans had their most complete game to date in round eight, against fellow expansion side Essendon. With Cynthia Hamilton let loose up forward, her two goals in the second quarter saw the Swans have their biggest score to date at half-time, and full of hope that they would finally break the duck.
Sofia Hurley and Sarah Dargan also hit the scoreboard twice, but it wasn’t enough, as the experienced Bombers players stood up when it counted and denied the Swans a maiden victory by four points.
Although falling agonisingly short, Sydney produced its most disciplined, controlled, and competitive performance on this day, and it’s this performance that will be the benchmark next season, hopefully with an added four points.
It was always going to be a tough ask taking on the finals-bound Cats at home in round 10, and after a promising start, it was one-way traffic for the Swans, as they became the second team to concede 100 points in AFLW.
The Swans were held goalless in the 2nd and 3rd quarters before two in the last, with the 75-point loss their heaviest of the year, as the Cats flexed their muscles, and ended the Swans season on a sour note.
Where to next?
With a contingent that now has ten games of experience alongside one another, and young talent has already grown significantly, the journey should continue unabated in 2023.
Although another bunch of high draft picks is likely to arrive at the Swans ahead of season eight, some more experienced bodies wouldn’t go astray,
For now, above all, a goal remains in place for 2023: get that first win.
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