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Sydney Swans 2008 preview

Roar Guru
10th March, 2008
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Age shall not weary them.

That is the belief of Sydney coach Paul Roos as the Swans head into the 2008 season with questions circling about their ability to remain an AFL force.

A first-week exit in last year’s finals to Collingwood handed observers enough evidence to forecast the imminent demise of the 2005 premiers.

They pointed to key players Barry Hall, Brett Kirk, Leo Barry, Michael O’Loughlin and Peter Everitt all being on the wrong side of 30.

But Roos reckons there is still plenty of fight in his old dogs despite losing ground last season.

“James Hird was best and fairest in his last season (at 34), Robert Harvey is playing good footy at 36, it just depends on the 30-year-old,” he said.

“Sometimes it is just a number.

“It just depends on the individual. Leo Barry was leading our best and fairest last year and Brett Kirk won it, so I am confident those guys still have some of their best footy ahead of them.”

But Roos admitted to a nagging fear that his side could slip out of the eight in 2008.

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“The competition is set up for parity with draft picks and the salary cap so that each team wins the competition once every 16 years,” he said.

“Each year is a massive challenge. We have had an exceptional run the last five years, making the finals in each year, making two grand finals and winning a premiership.

“There is always a danger in the competition that you might (slip out of the eight) but I have enough faith in the team to be competitive.”

The sight of a fit and refreshed Hall following an off-season overhaul has provided Swans supporters with renewed hope for the upcoming season.

The spearhead had a 2007 to forget, the three-time All-Australian’s nagging groin and hamstring problems hampering his output.

“We are probably looking at him to go better than last year but also we want our forward line to function better with Mick O’Loughlin, Nick Davis and Ryan O’Keefe,” said Roos.

“Adam Goodes started slowly last year but his back end to the season was probably better then his (2006) Brownlow season – he is a great athlete in the peak of his career.”

The premiership mentor sees plenty of upside to recruits Martin Mattner from Adelaide and Henry Playfair from Geelong – the Swans having a reputation for making the most of the off-cuts from other clubs.

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Sydney hope to reduce their casualty list this season, their blessed run in 2005 and 2006 coming to an end in 2007.

The likes of Hall, Barry, Tadhg Kennelly and Luke Ablett were restricted or sidelined for significant amounts of time last season.

The sight of damaging defender Nick Malceski going down with a major knee injury in a pre-season match is a serious blow to Sydney’s rebound out of defence.

The 23-year-old left-footer has become a vital cog in the Swans’ running game and finished second in last year’s best and fairest.

Roos touched wood that it was the only long-term injury of the season.

“Hopefully we have already made our injury sacrifice to the gods,” he said just days before fringe player Kristin Thornton suffered a similar fate.

“Tadhg Kennelly was out for a lot of last season and Barry Hall had some problems in the second half and injuries also hit us with Leo Barry and Luke Ablett so we hope to get more out of them this season.”

Having shown considerable faith in his core group for the past few years, Roos is looking for his side to be reinvigorated by youth in 2008, with high hopes held for the likes of Ed Barlow and Matthew Laidlaw.

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The relationship between the Swans and head office will also be watched more closely than ever after Roos was investigated and eventually cleared of attempting to influence the result of a pre-season match.

The Sydney coach won near-unanimous support from the wider football community and plenty at the club believe he was unfairly targetted by the AFL.

SYDNEY
Coach: Paul Roos

Captains: Brett Kirk, Leo Barry, Craig Bolton

Last five years: 3-5-1-2-7

Premierships: Four (1909, 1918, 1933, 2005).

Star five: Adam Goodes, Barry Hall, Tadhg Kennelly, Brett Kirk, Craig Bolton.

One to watch: Martin Mattner – The Swans have an enviable recent record of making the most of cast-offs from other clubs. Mattner played some very good footy for the Crows as a tall wingman, before falling off the pace in 2007.

Ins: Ed Barlow (rookie elevation), Craig Bird (scholarship list elevation), Luke Brennan (rookie elevation), Kieren Jack (rookie elevation), Martin Mattner (Adelaide), Brett Meredith (Northern U18), Henry (Playfair (Geelong), Patrick Veszpremi (Northern U18).

Outs: Sean Dempster (St Kilda), Stephen Doyle (retired), Simon Phillips (delisted), Adam Schneider (St Kilda), Jonathan Simpkin (delisted), Luke Vogels (delisted).

Best line-up:
B: Tadhg Kennelly, Leo Barry, Ted Richards
HB: Ben Mathews, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Craig Bolton
C: Martin Mattner, Jude Bolton, Adam Goodes
HF: Nick Davis, Barry Hall, Jarrad McVeigh
F: Amon Buchanan, Michael O’Loughlin, Ryan O’Keefe
R: Darren Jolly, Brett Kirk, Luke Ablett
I: Peter Everitt, Paul Bevan, Nic Fosdike, Tim Schmidt

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