Ryan Hebron in action for the Sydney Swans VFL. (PIcture: sydneyswans.com.au)

Ryan Hebron grew up as a Sydney Swans Academy prospect. In 2021, he has returned to their VFL side with high ambitions.

Ryan Hebron is one of the Sydney Swans VFL listed defenders. He’s a former Swans Academy product, and now he’s a homegrown product playing in the VFL. But his story doesn’t end there.

After graduating from the Swans Academy, Hebron played NEAFL for the Sydney Swans, and then Sydney University. He was named in the team of the year twice, and won University’s best and fairest award.

But he wasn’t getting any AFL attention, so in 2019, he went down to play with VFL side Werribee in order to attract more attention. In 2020, he had a pre-season try out with the Swans again, but after not getting picked up, went back down to play with Werribee again.

Hebron, like all footy players in 2021, is no stranger to the interruptions that COVID-19 can wreak on a season. At the time of our interview, the VFL competition had been placed on hold for a week, as Melbourne is in lockdown.

This was extended as Melbourne’s lockdown was, though the New South Wales and Queensland-based teams were able to complete their fixtures on the weekend.


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“It’s obviously disappointing when games get cancelled, but we’re preparing as if its just one week. It’s obviously scary what could happen, after what happened in 2020,” Hebron said.

Hebron can laugh about it a little more now that the wounds of 2020 have started to heal.

“Last year, I was down at Werribee, and we’d just finished our second or third practice game, on a Thursday night against Geelong. We came off the track and were told the season was postponed,” he recalled.

“I went to work at the Melbourne Sports Aquatic Centre, and work was cancelled mid-shift. Two days later, I came back to Sydney.”

The 2020 season was a write-off. Hebron laughed as he mentioned that, “last week, I finally picked up my boots and some stuff I left in my locker at Werribee.”

Hebron playing for Werribee in the VFL. (Picture: @WerribeeFC/Twitter)

With his full compliment of gear, Hebron is ready to attack the rest of the VFL season, with all its unusual features.

“I’m used to the travel because of the NEAFL, and I’m used to playing the VFL teams. After a year off, it has combined my past season into one,” he explained.

“When you head up to the Gold Coast, it feels like you’re in the NEAFL, and when you head to Melbourne, it feels like the VFL going up against a VFL team.”

Hebron is sure, however, that the Swans are the right team for him this season, feeling right back at home in the red and white.

“The Swans have treated us like listed players, and it’s unreal. They’ve been fantastic for me, and that’s huge,” Hebron explained.

“This year, I’m just keen to become a more complete package offensively and defensively, and the Swans have had a really good environment for that. I’ve got [coach] Jeremy Laidler, who was a backman just like me, who has been refining my game.”

Hebron is also focused on team success, but isn’t too worried about the progress of the VFL side despite an average start to the season.

“Even though we’re 2-3, the group has VFL finals as a goal,” he said.

“We will just keep putting in the work, and I’ll keep refining my game.”

Hebron has started the season strongly, averaging over 13 disposals, six marks and a tackle in his four appearance,. He’s rounding into form nicely, his best performances coming in recent weeks against Collingwood in round five and Casey in round six.

He nominated for the AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft, which was held on Wednesday, June 2, but was ultimately not drafted with any of the 27 selections.

Fellow Swans VFL teammate Lachlan McAndrew was elevated to the senior side, the 210cm ruckman in prime position to give the side more depth alongside Tom Hickey, Callum Sinclair and Sam Naismith.

Continued in part 2.

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