Can the Sydney Swans win the Premiership?
Sydney and Carlton players react as the final siren sounds during the AFL 1st Elimination Final match between the Sydney Swans and the Carlton Blues at ANZ Stadium.
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Do the Sydney Swans have what it takes to win the 2012 AFL Premiership?
After Sydney’s impressive five goal demolition of last year’s sixth placed Saints in only forty minutes of football last Friday night, there have been murmurings among the football world as to whether the Swans have what it takes to sneak their way to a grand final or even a premiership.
Could it be that the perennially underrated Swans are finally getting some respect?
Let’s dig a little deeper and see if they can properly contend for a coveted top four position, or whether they’ll merely fill a spot in the bottom half of the eight.
Sydney should improve, and we’ll explore that below, but the improvement will need to be sharper than average. Of the six teams that finished above them last year I’m expecting four to be better in 2012 – Collingwood, Hawthorn, West Coast and Carlton.
We might suggest that at worst, Geelong will plateau, and perhaps concede that St Kilda will go backwards. This doesn’t even account for the likes of Essendon, North, Fremantle, Richmond, Melbourne and Adelaide, who all finished eighth and below, and whose supporters will rightfully expect gains on matches won last year.
When looking at the Sydney list, the marquee player for the red and white is Adam Goodes, a once in a generation player who should be in any conversation of the AFL’s best players of the last decade. As ‘ageless’ as he seems, he is 32, and improvement can’t rightfully be expected of this indigenous superstar.
However, with a third best and fairest and fourth All-Australian award in his pocket after last season, he’s showing no signs of slowing, and the same output can be expected this year.
Other veterans like Ryan O’Keefe, Rhys Shaw and Ted Richards (three of the top five in the best and fairest) will need to maintain their high 2011 levels, while Jude Bolton, Marty Mattner and Jarrad McVeigh are part of the furniture at the SCG, and their consistency is assured.
Heath Grundy is ever-reliable in defence, Lewis Roberts-Thompson and Nick Smith do a job when called upon, and Ben McGlynn is the defensive small forward terrier that every club needs.
So, like any lower-end finalist looking to push into premiership contention, we must mine the next tier of Swans to see what gold exists underneath.
Shane Mumford is already one of the top all-round ruckmen in the league, and despite ranking first for hit-outs to advantage over the course of last season, there is nothing to suggest that he won’t improve again.
When the big man hits form he is nigh on unstoppable, winning taps, following up by throwing his weight around at ground-level, and then using his huge frame to crush the opposition with bone-jarring tackles.
At Mumford’s feet will be clearance specialist Josh Kennedy, classy tackle-machine Kieran Jack, and 2010 Rising Star Daniel Hannebery. Kennedy is still getting better, Jack will be like a new recruit after never quite recovering from an ankle injury last year, and Hannebery is expected to rise again after levelling out in 2011.
Jack, in particular, is an All-Australian-in-waiting, and any surge into the top four by the Swans is going to be very much driven by him recapturing and exceeding his 2010 form.
Mitch Morton and Tony Armstrong have been recruited from Richmond and Adelaide respectively, so if they can be fed some of the ‘Secret Sydney Sustenance’ that all players transferring to the Harbour City seem to receive, they can also make an impact up forward and down back. It must be noted that Andrejs Everitt and Matt Spangher didn’t seem to get their allotment of SSS last year, so this is not as assured as it once was.
Of the younger brigade, Alex Johnson was most promising last year in holding down a defensive post, Luke Parker may well be Jude Bolton’s younger brother such is his hardness over the ball and appetite for the contest.
Lewis Jetta has been a disappointment, but is a potential match-winner as a super-sub. Gary Rohan could be the most exciting young mid-sized forward in the league, and the talk out of the Sydney is that he is ready to go the next level.
All four of these youngsters will need to double and even triple their previous outfit if the Swans are going to make the quantum leap we’re asking, and the likes of untried Tom Mitchell and Jed Lamb will need to burst on the scene as well, but it’s time to get to the most important player in determining whether the Swans can soar with the Hawks, Magpies and Eagles.
The man in question is Sam Reid and in what was basically his first season last year (only one match in 2010), he ranked twelfth for contested marks in the AFL. This guy may only be 20 years old, but he could very well already have the best hands in the competition, and with some extra kilo’s on his slight frame, along with natural improvement, he can expect to be seen in the top five this year.
We know he can do the hard stuff that is required from a key forward, but Reid just needs to work on his other skills – getting some cheaper football on the lead, and converting his possessions into goals and assists. Kicking for goal is his weakness, and it was never more evident than his display of 2.5 against Richmond in Rd 12 last year, frequently missing from point-blank range.
He also tired towards the end of the season, getting single figure possessions in four of his last five matches. But with an extra pre-season of hard work under his belt, every football watcher in the AFL world is excited about what Sam, the younger brother of Collingwood gun Ben, is capable of.
So, after an in-depth look at where improvement can be expected, it’s time to answer the original question – can the Sydney Swans win the premiership in 2012?
The hard answer for mine is no, because I believe that too many things will need to go right for them, and wrong for the teams above them. Admittedly, some of the latter is already starting with a host of Collingwood players suffering pre-season injuries and one of West Coast’s key players in Mark LeCras undergoing a knee reconstruction.
I still think Hawthorn and Carlton, along with the aforementioned Pies, will have them covered for class, but the Swans can sneak a place in the top four, and build on this to become a more serious premiership threat in 2013.
Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for in his mind there is nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.
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