A young group of teenagers and early twenty-year-olds living by the beach in the eastern suburbs of Sydney might sound like a neighbour’s worst nightmare, but for a young Swan, it’s as good as life can get.
Justin McInerney is one of the youngsters who helped Sydney boom away to its 4-0 start to the season.
Despite back-to-back losses in recent weeks to the GWS Giants and Gold Coast, McInerney and the young Swans are making waves in the harbour city in front of capacity crowds at the SCG.
“Last year there was no fans which wasn’t great. Now that we’re back, it’s great to get here, with fans, it was a pretty full house when we played the Giants, so, it was great to hear the crowd when they started chanting Sydney. It certainly gets the boys up abit more which is great” McInerney told The Inner Sanctum last week.
The 20-year-old, hailing from Banyule and Marcellin College has cemented himself in John Longmire’s senior team towards the end of 2020 and has carried on his form in the early weeks of this season.
Averaging 15 disposals and 3.5 Inside 50s a game across the start of 2021, McInerney is making the wing position his own and is using the additional space created by the new rules to his advantage.
“It’s a lot more free-flowing [the game] and a lot quicker which can get you a bit spent a bit more. But it’s great, the up and back sort of thing, that’s what basically my strengths are,” he said.
“My job is to hold the outside basically. If it’s my chance to go inside, I don’t do it often but I go in there, hold my own, try do my best, but yeah, just try and play my role on the wing.”
It was a long time between games for McInerney. Debuting early in his first year before spending the rest of the season playing in the NEAFL, he started the 2020 season in the senior side before falling out of favour.
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But, some strong form on the training track and in the scratch matches in the hub earned him a spot back in the senior team for the final 5 weeks of the season, culminating in a rising star nomination against Melbourne in round 15 in Cairns.
McInerney said that although he debuted much earlier than he initially expected, the messaging from the coaches to work on his strengths was consistent throughout his time out of the senior side.
“First year I was very light framed, I actually got in much earlier than I thought I would’ve. I think it was only Round 4 but it was great to get my opportunity,” he said.
“Obviously I didn’t play as well as I wanted to but it was just great to get out there, see what it’s all about and then I went back to the NEAFL, had to work on a couple of things
“The main ones [areas of improvement] were my contest work, just my ability to not get pushed over too easily. The other things will come.
“Obviously, I’ll be able to run and that sort of thing so it’s all the other things that I needed to work on. So my contest, my ground balls, tackling and all that sort of stuff.”
McInerney, like many of his teammates, has heralded the off-season acquisition of Don Pyke to the Swans football department. The former Adelaide senior coach joined the club in October as an assistant coach after spending four seasons in the top job at the Crows, guiding the club to the 2017 Grand Final.
The Swans, both young and old, have wasted no time tapping into his football acumen.
“He’s been a massive inclusion,” McInerney said.
“Just his footy knowledge and what he brings to the club, he is a great guy as well, I’ve got good banter with Don.
“He’s basically just a guru, he knows so much about the game, he’s been incredible for this club I reckon to start the year. I’m sure he will keep analysing teams and doing that sort of stuff for us. He’s been great”
While he is still young in life and in his football career, McInerny is wasting no time settling into life in Sydney, becoming accustomed to the lifestyle and enjoying the bonding time living together with his young teammates.
“We’re a really strong group. The first to third years live together, we hang out basically all the time. Every day basically,” he said.
“We love the beach, obviously. That’s a different lifestyle and didn’t go as much when I was a kid but now I’m there almost every day.
“The weather is great. We love our basketball; we got a basketball hoop out the back. We love that. We don’t mind our PlayStation time either.”
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