The Roar
The Roar


Playing the kids is the Sydney Swans' path to a premiership

The Swannies will go one better this season. (AAP Image/Rob Blakers)
Roar Pro
4th October, 2017

Starting the season 0-6, the Sydney Swans became the first team in history to begin at that mark and still make the finals, going 14-2 – with their two losses coming against Hawthorn and both only by a goal.

Entering the finals looking as real contenders, they knocked over the Bombers with ease before getting belted by the Cats in the semi-final to end their season.

One major positive of the 2017 season was the Swans having six debutants: Oliver Florent (nine games), Nic Newman (20), Will Hayward (17), Lewis Melican (17), Jordan Dawson (one) and Robbie Fox (three).

All showed glimpses that they can be best 22 material, while Hayward and Melican also received AFL Rising Star nominations.

If the Swans are to continue being a dominant force, they need to continue to play these kids. This goes well with guys such as George Hewett, Jake Lloyd and Tom Papley having breakout seasons to really cement their spots in the side.

In the game against the Cats they looked a shadow of the team they’d been for the majority of the season. The Cats starting Patrick Dangerfield up forward really worried the Swans and when they double-teamed him, it left others wide open.

Harry Cunningham and Dean Towers both had similar stats this season around 14 disposals, three marks and four tackles a game but both really need to take that next step if they don’t want to become victims to the Swans depth.

Guys like Jordan Foote and Dan Robinson are in the same boat, need to play more consistent and take their game to the next level if they want to cement a spot in the Swans best 22.


Gary Rohan might not get the disposals of the others but he hits the scoreboard, he just needs to be more consistent, maybe a role change moving further up the ground to a high half forward or to the wing will help him.

He has the speed and aerial ability to maybe be a link up man between the backline and the forward line.

Gary Rohan Sydney Swans AFL 2017 tall

(AAP Image/David Moir)

Guys from the NEAFL who made their debuts in 2017 Florent and Dawson should really be pushing hard for 2018.

Dawson is a 23-year-old midfielder/forward who played one game in 2017 but in his NEAFL season he played 12 games averaging 28.3 disposals, 7.5 marks, 5.7 tackles, 4.8 clearances and kicked 31 goals.

Florent is a silky smooth half forward that was the Swans’ pick 11 in the 2016 AFL Draft from the Sandringham Dragons to go along with his nine AFL games Florent played ten NEAFL games averaging 19.7 disposals, 3 marks, 3.3 tackles, 3.1 clearances and kicked 12 goals.

Florent needs a big preseason to bulk up and get some more in the tank and at only 19 still has time on his side.


Aliir is another interesting option for 2018 after a breakout 2016 season only managed three games in 2017 due to injury, form and off-field behaviour.

In 15 NEAFL games Aliir averaged 20.3 disposals, 6.6 marks, 1.4 tackles, 2.5 rebound 50’s and kicked 12 goals.

It was also the rise and form of young defender Lewis Melican that kept Aliir out of the side.

With Heath Grundy and Dane Rampe playing the key posts in the Swans backline that third tall spot goes to either Melican or Aliir, and I can’t see them at the moment being able to play in the same side together.

Aliir is your tall high-flying, marking and attacking defender. Melican is more that competitive beast that will run, tackle, spoil, chase playing more as a lockdown defender like he did on Nick Riewoldt to earn him a Rising Star nomination.

In my opinion I’d play Aliir over Melican for two main reasons. Firstly, with Grundy still playing as solid as ever there is no real need for a new fullback. But on the wrong side of 30 Grundy can’t go on forever so I’d be playing Aliir getting games and experience under his belt with the Swans having no other real key defenders after the delisting of Michael Talia.

Secondly Aliir playing that marking player down back it will hopefully be able to keep Sam Reid up forward and not having him swing down back all the time trying to keep him in the one position.


If I was the Swans coaching staff and football department I’d be looking at the this season to continue playing the youngsters such as guys like Dawson, Hayward, Newman and Florent.

They are the future and if the Swans want to stay up in the top group of teams where they always seem to be they need to develop these kids.

The Swans are already one of the favourites for the 2018 Premiership and the season has only been finished a few days and these kids can play a major part if that is to come true.

Star players can only take you so far, it’s the youth and the depth of teams that gets them to grand finals and wins premierships.