Ladder Position: 7th
The Sydney Swans again largely flew under the radar in 2011 to reach the second semi final in John Longmire’s first season in charge as head coach, claiming the impressive scalp of Geelong at Skilled Stadium, yet also suffering an embarrassing 43-point loss to Richmond when a home final was on the line.
Longmire has continued the club’s trademark close, contested – and always competitive – brand of footy, that began under his predecessor Paul Roos, and it was the eighth time the club had made the finals in the last nine seasons. In his 2011 season summation, Longmire identified the areas of “conversion, general skill execution and a mindset of bringing hardness to each contest” as his aims for 2012, and the Swans drafted accordingly.
The Swans pick up well-regarded midfielder Tom Mitchell under the father Son rule, Alex Brown can slot in as a dashing back-flanker with good disposal and Jordan Lockyer will add depth as a tall defender. They also hope their success recycling players continues with the attitude-errant but dangerous forward Mitch Norton and untried sizeable Irishman Tommy Walsh.
Injuries, including career ending ones to Craig Bolton and Daniel Bradshaw, saw opportunities for a number of younger players in 2011, with defender Alex Johnson playing 20 games, Luke Parker impressing and Gary ‘Fanta Pants’ Rohan becoming somewhat of a super sub. The injection of youth gave the Swans some much needed speed and unpredictability as the core of the list – Bolton, Swan, Matner, Bird, Richards – again delivered consistently with largely injury free seasons.
Up forward the Swans look their most dangerous for many years, Sam Reid takes an excellent grab, yet with a 2011 return of 22.26 needs to improve his set shot conversions.
The seemingly evergreen Goodes, the Swans leading goal kicker last season with 41, is a nightmare match up for any defender and the pace and agility of Rohan will trouble teams.
Throw in some ground level support from Ben McGlynn, recycled Tiger Mitch Norton, the big Irishman Tommy Walsh, the honest endurance of Ryan O’keefe and the blistering Jetta and there are a fair few avenues to goal.
The Swans have been getting the ball inside their forward fifty enough, just not taking their chances once in there. The surplus of big-bodies means that the exasperating Jessie White will be likely used as a tall defender in what you feel is his make or break year.
Likely to get off to a flyer, with the hometown Brett Kirk cup against GWS first up, with Hawthorn in round five the only top four team the Swans play between March and round 13 at the end of June. While the Swans have lost Matt Spangher for the early part of the season with a hamstring injury, they welcome back a fit and healthy Nick Malceski, and Trent Dennis-Lane
Adam Goodes: Enters his 14th season of AFL after a stellar 2011 where he played every game and took out the Bob Skilton medal for Swans Best & Fairest. Can single handedly turn a match and a near impossible match up.
Josh Kennedy: Showed in the Swans semi final loss to Hawthorn that he is a big game player, and after a slow start, finished equal second in the Bob Skilton Medal. A classy and crucial midfielder who’s exceptional clearance work can prove damaging with targets ahead.
Kieran Jack: Will be hoping to put an injury-marred 2011 behind him as he continues to evolve and add extra dimensions to his game as he grows from blanketing tagger to astute midfielder.
Sam Reid: Earned a Rising Star nomination on the way to a standout season where he snared a team-high 45 contested marks and played 23 games at half-forward. Has strong hands in a pack and has hopefully spent the summer fixing his set shot technique.
Alex Johnson: After a super-impressive debut year in 2011 where he played 20 games including two finals the rebounding tall-defender has been the standout in pre-season time trails and also offers another forward target.
Tom Mitchell: Picked up under the father and son rule in the 2011 draft, the highly regarded hard-at-it midfielder looks AFL ready and the likely successor to Jude Bolton.
The Swans have a nice mix of pace, class and height, an influential ruckman in Mumford and finally have a potentially imposing forward line, yet really need to better convert their chances into scoreboard pressure and re-establish the SCG fortress to challenge for the top four.
4th to 6th