Here’s to the Swans winning the flag
Shane Mumford of the Swans in the ruck (Slattery Images)
It has been such an intriguing exercise so far trying to determine a favourite for this year’s flag. So intriguing, in fact, I hadn’t found the time to consider who it was I wanted to win it.
But yesterday, while the team sitting on the top of the ladder was being criticised for operating above its station, and a newspaper article bemoaned its cost-of-living salary cap concessions, I made a decision.
I want the Sydney Swans to win the Premiership.
If it can’t be the poor Western Bulldogs ,who I have a weakness for, then let it be the maligned and unfashionable Swans.
I didn’t see this first expansion team as a “foreign” enterprise. I watched on with interest throughout the slightly grotesque carnival of its early years with helicopter arrivals, poaching of star players, and the blond mulletted bogan in pink boots. Also, I didn’t feel threatened when it prospered, as it was a validation of the game in the non- AFL State.
It didn’t rely solely on Victorian recruits either. One of its most celebrated players, captain and Brownlow medallist Paul Kelly, was a New South Welshman. Also they were good enough to give away an even better one, to North Melbourne in 1987. Wayne Carey, the boy from Wagga Wagga, would go on to become probably the greatest footballer ever.
During those early hedonistic days it would have been hard to imagine the side becoming the dowdy consistent one of modern times.
To supporters of teams with stronger rosters, or flashier styles, the arrival of Paul Roos’ mob put a damper on things. Missing the finals just twice in the last decade they have stifled, smothered and flooded the life out of teams with better premiership credentials.
In their “dominant” period of 2005 and 2006 they won a grand final by a paltry four points and lost another by a mere behind.
The newspaper article I referred to talked of the Swans “splashing” money around thanks to the extra $800,000 they are granted to cover the higher cost-of-living expenses of Sydney.
The truth is many of the Swans players are rejects from other clubs, recruited to fill holes in the outfit but also providing the compelling spectacle of players out to prove a point.
Its reliance on the other States is still enormous with only 7 of its 39 listed players coming from NSW which means the vast majority of its young draftees will be without the comfort of family and friends when they embark on their arduous AFL journey.
The Melbourne clubs have a huge retention advantage simply by being located near the homes and families of most their players.
Much has been said about the Swans’ ultimate lack of class, and over reliance on Adam Goodes and the resurrection of Lewis Jetta.
But two important things have changed. Firstly, they’re on top of the ladder. Who saw that coming? They could only manage third in their premiership season. And secondly, they are currently the best team for forcing and punishing turnovers as well as being a more offensive team than in the past hence the whopping percentage of 146. In 2005 they finished with 116%.
In such a tightly contested season, I’m hoping the tough and dowdy Swans – now with a bit more pizazz – will be capable of stealing the show.