Paddy McCartin at pre-season training with the Sydney Swans (Image: Sydney Swans)

Paddy McCartin is approaching four years since his last AFL match. The Sydney Swans have given him a lifeline, but how does he fit into their plans?

It’s official now, former number one draft pick, Paddy McCartin, is back on an AFL list after signing as a ‘category A’ rookie with the Sydney Swans.

Initially drafted in 2014 to St Kilda with the top pick, Paddy McCartin was once believed to be the next big ‘power forward’ of the competition.

Selected ahead of the likes of Christian Petracca and Darcy Moore, there was a lot to be excited about in the young forward.

McCartin’s time with the Saints wasn’t how either party would have hoped, playing 35 games with a return of just 36 goals, but that wasn’t main reason things didn’t go as planned.

In the five seasons spent at St Kilda, McCartin suffered a disastrous eight concussions, which ultimately forced him to step away from the game and focus on his health.

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Prepared to retire completely for the sake of his own health, McCartin came out of a meeting with the AFL and a panel of brain specialists, about 28 months ago, believing he could once again play in the AFL.

“If there was a 0.01 per cent chance that I was at a greater risk than someone else, or my threshold had lowered and I was more susceptible to concussion than the next person running out next to me, then I was going to retire,” McCartin told The Age in March 2021.

“I went into that meeting with that mindset. I was going to give it away, but I was told that that wasn’t the case, and from there it was going to be my decision.”

Fast forward to February 2021, and after months of speaking with experts, McCartin was deemed ready to play the sport once again and signed with the Sydney Swans’ VFL list.

Despite hiccups throughout the year, McCartin impressed enough for the Swans to add him to their rookie list via the Supplemental Selection Period (SSP), available for AFL selection in 2022.

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Why did Sydney sign Paddy McCartin?

There’s a few reasons, some obvious ones being the incredible talent and promise he’d shown as a youngster; the little financial burden he’d place on the salary cap; but also linking up with younger brother, Tom, has its benefits.

McCartin provides ready-made key position depth, an area that has troubled the Swans in recent years.

Sydney Swans Key Position depth:

Key ForwardsKey Defenders
Lance Franklin – 35
Logan McDonald – 19
Hayden McLean – 23
Joel Amartey – 22
Dane Rampe – 31
Tom McCartin – 22
Lewis Melican – 25
Will Gould – 21

Keep in mind:

  • Peter Ladhams – expected to play forward/ruck role
  • Sam Reid – Swingman
  • Robbie Fox – has played key defense roles in the past
  • Nick Blakey – 195cm, expected to play from half-back
  • Barry O’Connor – 193cm ‘General Defender’

At 25 years of age, Paddy provides more maturity than the young demographic that have shone in the Swans’ relatively quick list rebuild.

Paddy McCartin’s key attributes are his physicality, strength and marking ability, much-like brother Tom. He’s an expert in reading the flight of the ball and using his body to manipulate opponents to his personal advantage.

For a big man, McCartin also possesses a relatively large endurance tank which helps him find the footy higher up the ground.

There’s every chance we could see McCartin partner up with Lance Franklin as the Swans’ key men in the forward line.

He currently has more maturity, games and physicality than any of the up and coming forwards in Sydney’s list in McDonald, McLean and Amartey.

However, what we saw from the his time playing VFL for the Swans in 2021, was that he could play a pivotal role in defense, partnered alongside his (not so) little brother.

Paddy and Tom McCartin playing as the pillars of the Sydney defense is a prospect that will excite Sydney fans. Two specialists in contested marking, both beginning their careers as forwards before becoming masters down back.

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With a frame that allows him to be more mobile, Paddy even possesses the ability to accumulate possession despite being a key position player.

Before being handed a hefty suspension, McCartin showed glimpses of his ball magnet abilities in matches against the GWS and Gold Coast VFL sides; collecting 18 and 21 disposals consecutively.

His dynamic ability for a big man was what got him drafted as the top pick 2014, the talent is undoubtedly there, it’ll be a question as to whether McCartin can keep himself from further concussion issues.

The Swans’ ability to coach and develop effectively has become well known amongst the AFL, and recovering the career of Paddy McCartin would only solidify those claims.

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