Sydney Swans recruit Kiara Beesley (Picture: Sydney Swans, Design by Will Cuckson)

Season Seven was a baptism of fire for all of the AFLW expansion clubs, but even more so for the winless Sydney Swans. Without wins indicating success, the group has looked at the club’s key performance indicators and the way they’ve played together to gauge the success of their inaugural season.

With the other three expansion sides registering their maiden wins this season, it been a rather tough season for the Swans. Hawthorn, Essendon and Port Adelaide all saw their efforts rewarded with at least won victory, while the Swans had to look inside the walls of the club for some ways to measure the success of their season.

First year Swan Kiara Beesley spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about how the team dealt with the winless season and how they felt their inaugural season went.

“I think coming into our first expansions season we knew it was going to be hard to get a win but it hasn’t stopped us from fighting for one,” Beesley told The Inner Sanctum.

“The coaching staff and the girls have really focused on KPIs (key performance indicators) this season, we know we are getting results and the stats are proving it as well [with] our ball movement, contested possessions, our uncontested possessions, our inside 50s [and] our rebound 50s.

“Throughout the season we are seeing massive improvements in our ability [as well as how] we gel together as a team. [With] a short pre-season, it is very hard to gel as a team and I think we’ve done that really well but the only thing that will allow you to play better together is playing more together.

“I think as the season’s gone on we’ve definitely started to get an understanding of how each other plays and we can work together better as a team, I think it’s obvious from our performances we are getting much better and hopefully a win isn’t too far away.”

“[A win is] something we’d love to have but isn’t essential to our growth and development as a team and a club.”

One aspect that the Swans had in mind when completing their list build was the experienced talent that they could bring in from other clubs to help to off-set the youth. Experienced defender Maddy Collier as well as star forwards Bec Privitelli and Brooke Lochland, were signed from the Eagles, Giants and Bulldogs respectively, used to bring leadership and knowledge to the new side.

In her first season of senior football coming up through the Swans academy, Beesley explains the role that the more experienced players had in the development of the younger players such as herself.

“They’ve been absolutely amazing [and] I think they’ve been leaders on and off-the-field, so not just with football stuff,” she said.

“Maddy’s (Collier) [has been] one that I play with in the backline and she’s been absolutely amazing every second she’s been helping me, [she’s] going through vision with me and pulling up little things that her experienced eye will see over me. I think in terms of their experience playing AFLW [at the] level they’ve done everything they can to help the less experienced girls get an understanding of what it’s all about and really guiding us through.

“They’ve been so understanding of everything, everything is growth, everything is development and pushing us along that journey and making us the best athletes that we can so the support from the leadership group has been absolutely amazing.”

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Having been the head coach of North Melbourne in the 2019 and 2020 seasons as well as the assistant coach of Carlton in 2017, Scott Gowans has a wealth of experience in the AFLW. Being appointed as the first head coach of the Swans’ AFLW side, Beesley explains how he has handled a tough year at the helm.

“He’s come in with a very clear process for us to follow so we’ve got a gameplan and that doesn’t necessarily change [with] who we are versing. Our program and our gameplan and our team first [mentality] is something that’s really helped us give us confidence.

“He’s always got a positive [note] and something to work on because obviously there’s going to be stuff we need to work on but he is very good at looking at where we’ve been and where we are coming to. We’ve really maintained that culture and that willingness to keep pushing and striving for more because we have faith and we know he believes in us.”

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Being a well-established side within the AFL, the AFLW team has been welcomed with open arms down at Sydney. When asked how the AFLW team has been integrated into the club, Beesley names numerous figures that have had a hand in helping them in their first season.

“I think that the unity around the club has been amazing, Tom [Harley]’s been down on our bench and I don’t think there’d be another CEO doing that,” Beesley said.

“I was lucky enough to be in the Swans Academy before and I think even during that academy he knew my name and he knew I’d been through an ACL injury and I think we’ve had ‘Kirky’ (Brett Kirk) down at training in his holidays.

“We’ve had some of the VFL boys come and help out previously [and] we’ve had Nick Davis come down, so I think the club has given us so much support and we know we have their backing and their belief in us which gives us the confidence to go out there and follow the process, keep putting in at training and working really hard at games.”

It’s not often that players who have played together from a young age get to come through the pathway together to the top level but that’s what eventuated for Swans recruits, Ruby Sargent-Wilson and Beesley. Speaking about their club debut and the journey that they’ve been on together, Beesley is thrilled that her great friend has been a familiar face at the Swans.

“We have played club level as well together so ‘Rubes’ and I have essentially gone through the whole journey together,” she said.

“She was there when I did my knee, I was there when she played her first game [and] I played my first game and our hotel rooms were together [so] it was a good experience running back and forth from each other’s rooms.

“It was good just to have a familiar face and a really good friend to share that experience with and I think it makes it that little bit more special that we’ve been on the same journey together, it’s been slightly different but eventually we’ve got there both together and on the same day which was awesome.”

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