Whilst season 2013 will go down as a moderately successful season for the Sydney Swans, it will also be remembered for the heavy injury toll which threatened to bring their premiership defence crashing down.
In the face of their worst injury toll since 1999, the Swans still continued their remarkable finals record by finishing in the top eight for the 15th time in the past 18 years.
They were also able new players who did their part in filling the void left by the injured seniors.
Let’s now take a look back at the failed premiership defence that was the Sydney Swans.
What went right
Once again, the Swans enjoyed another solid season which saw them qualify for the finals for the 15th time in 18 years.
The season started off with two victories over the AFL’s expansion clubs (GWS and the Gold Coast), a dream start which had Eddie McGuire fuming, after the Swans had captured last year’s flag.
They also managed a victory on the big Friday night stage against Collingwood at the MCG in Round 9, though that victory was tainted by the incident involving Adam Goodes, which will be recapped a bit later.
Kurt Tippett came straight into the side following his half-season long suspension for his role in Adelaide’s salary cap tampering scandal.
Immediately he felt right at home – right at the beginning of the Swans’ match against Port Adelaide in Round 13, the ball cleared the centre square, found Tippett, who from there kicked the opening goal of the game.
The Swans also compiled a six-match winning streak from rounds 14-19, all achieved without Adam Goodes, who, unknowingly, would not play again this season after Round 13.
The club were also able to blood new players in the face of the club’s growing injury toll – Dane Rampe, Brandon Jack, Xavier Richards and Harry Cunningham, among others, tasted senior football for the first time and slotted into the Swans’ line-up very well.
On an overall basis, their continued impressive results was what landed them a double chance for the second consecutive year in a row.
What went wrong
The Swans’ injury toll was well-documented this year, as it attempted to sabotage the club’s premiership defence.
The carnage started in the pre-season when Alex Johnson ruptured his ACL, thus ruling him out for the entire year.
Then, Lewis Roberts-Thomson went down with a knee injury in Round 4, and did not take any further part in the season.
Lewis Jetta then suffered a shin injury in Round 10 and did not return until the finals, but the injury which affected the team most was that of Adam Goodes in Round 13.
The dual-Brownlow Medallist injured his knee in the loss to Port Adelaide midway through the season and would play no further part in the Swans’ premiership defence.
Sam Reid and Rhyce Shaw also spent prolonged periods of time on the sidelines.
Eventually it was this long injury toll which contributed to their ending the season poorly, whereby it lost five of their last seven games, including a pair of losses to Hawthorn and the preliminary final against Fremantle.
The Swans also failed to beat any of the teams above them on the ladder, the closest coming when they drew with Fremantle back in Round 8.
The draw was made all the more disappointing given the Swans had led by 27 points midway through the final quarter, only to switch off with their minds clearly on the following game against Collingwood.
The victory over the Pies in the week after the draw against the Dockers was tainted by the racial slur made towards Adam Goodes, whereby a teenage girl called the dual-Brownlow Medallist an “ape”.
It was an impressive victory for the Swans on that Friday night back in May but it was sad that the performance by the team overall had to be soured by such a terrible act of racism.
The off-season will give the Swans’ senior personnel more time to recover from their injuries, and hopefully with a full squad intact, they will be able to challenge for yet another finals series in 2014.
Jude Bolton, however, will be sorely missed after he played his 325th and final game in the preliminary final loss to Fremantle over the weekend.
Ryan O’Keefe has also expressed the Swans’ desire in luring Collingwood defender Heath Shaw up north, a move that would see the Shaw brothers re-united.
But will it actually happen? It’ll be interesting to see how the Swans play their cards in next month’s AFL Draft.
Questions the fans will want answered in 2014
– Can the Swans remain injury-free throughout the season?
– Will next year be Adam Goodes’ final year?
– Can the club’s youngsters continue their rapid progress?
And last but not least…
– Can the Swans challenge for another premiership next year?