Have the Swans lost their ‘Bloods’ culture?

Stuart McKenzie Roar Rookie

By Stuart McKenzie, Stuart McKenzie is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    It’s not that long ago that other clubs wanted to be like the Sydney Swans and supporters from other clubs looked on in admiration, wondering just what it was like to follow such a team.

    They were universally admired in the footy world, not only for the substantial successes they achieved, but for the manner in which those successes were achieved.

    The Swans of today though, appear to be quite different to the club that won the 2012 premiership. So, what’s changed? For one, there has been a dramatic shift in the approach to recruiting and trading.

    The blue-collar Bloods are now home to the Bondi Billionaires and a club that willingly traded draft picks for experienced players now finds itself utilising its draft selections.

    Unloved players from other clubs flocked to the Swans to fill specific needs. It’s easy to forget the remarkable success they achieved by bringing such players to the club and immersing them in the Bloods culture.

    Want a couple of key defenders, try Ted Richards and Craig Bolton; need competitive ruckmen, Darren Jolly, Jason Ball and Shane Mumford are the men; attacking defenders, that’s Marty Mattner and Rhyce Shaw; a big bodied midfielder, there’s a handy player in the VFL by the name of Josh Kennedy; a speedy on-baller, we’ll give Paul Williams a go; a skilful forward, that’s Nick Davis; or a key forward, well, Barry Hall will do.

    The Swans backed their ability to identify rough diamonds, willingly trading draft picks for that player. While giving up first round picks for experienced players – Hall, Jolly, Ball and Williams, for example – they also landed real gems – picks, 39, 46 and 70 for Kennedy; pick 61 for Shaw; pick 28 for Mumford; and Bolton cost nothing in the pre-season draft.

    Sure, they had some misses, few remember Andrew Schauble, Luke Brennan and David Spriggs, but the phenomenal success of the ones they ‘got right’ far outweighs any misses.

    Then, after winning the 2012 premiership in a performance that underwrote the Swans’ entire approach to recruiting and epitomised the Bloods culture, they did an about face. Kurt Tippett was signed, on one of the biggest deals the game had seen.

    This was eclipsed just one year later, when the footy world was rocked by the Swans luring Lance Franklin with a nine-year deal for $10 million.

    Lance Franklin Sydney Swans AFL 2017

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    Since 2012, the only players from other clubs acquired by the Swans have been Jeremy Laidler and Tom Derickx as delisted free agents, Callum Sinclair Michael Talia. Only Sinclair remains on the list.

    Over the same period, the Swans have been more active at the draft table, having taken 12 selections inside the top 50, compared to only nine in the period 2006-09 (2010 and 2011 were disregarded due to the Gold Coast concessions).

    Salary cap constraints caused by the recruitment of both Tippett and Franklin must have contributed to the increased emphasis on the draft and reduced focus on enticing players from other clubs.

    No one outside the club knows what impact this change in recruiting / trading strategy has had on both the fabric of the club and on-field performance.

    We can reasonably assume though that it almost certainly cost the Swans Shane Mumford (and couldn’t the Swans have done with big Mummy in the 2014 decider), much loved defender Nick Malceski whose post-goal celebration in the 2012 grand final is etched in Swans folklore and father-son prospect and now Hawthorn best and fairest winner, Tom Mitchell. And perhaps, most of all, they lost the cost of living allowance, which despite their claims otherwise, provided a major advantage in attracting and retaining players.

    Sydney Swans player Kurt Tippett catches AFL ball

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    In the five years since recruiting Tippet, four of which included Franklin as a Swan, they have made two grand finals, surrendering meekly to a Hawthorn assault in 2014 and failing to withstand the Bulldogs manic pressure of 2016. A preliminary final belting in 2013, a straight sets exit in 2015 when undermanned and this year’s semi-final thrashing at the hands of Geelong rounds out those years.

    And, what of the Bloods culture? The Swans of today are still a respected team and club, but they no longer have that intangible quality that made them such a unique group. They were both revered and feared, not any more. It’s hard to imagine the Bloods ever putting up performances like the 2014 grand final.

    Had the Swans produced a premiership in that time, perhaps that cost would be justifiable. There is still time for it to pay dividends, but the failure to do so to date, must bring into question the merits of the shift in approach to recruiting and trading.

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    The Crowd Says (50)

    • October 18th 2017 @ 7:15am
      R&R said | October 18th 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

      Good article and a fair summation Stuart, are you another exile from RWO?
      Agreed that in terms of team performance Franklin’s recruitment hasn’t yielded the promised/expected results, but these days the apologists of that deal focus more on membership numbers and attendances, where there is more room for justification (in the absence of clarity).

      • October 18th 2017 @ 10:37am
        Rich_daddy said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        “Hasn’t yielded the promised/expected results”

        Bar winning a premiership, the Franklin recruitment has been a roaring success. 2 GF appearances, Membership and general media exposure up and the performances of Franklin himself has definitely met expectations.

        The expectation that the Swans would steamroll the competition winning multiple flags with Franklin was largely driven by the media and whining Victorian clubs. Had things panned out that way, they wouldn’t have received due credit. Now that they haven’t met the lofty expectations of outsiders, they get panned for it.

        Basing your measurement of success purely on premierships is a very narrow measurement. Is Geelong’s recruitment of Patrick Dangerfield a failure because they haven’t won a premiership? Adelaide’s recruitment of Eddie Betts? Carlton’s recruitment of Chris Judd?

        • October 19th 2017 @ 5:01am
          Lance said | October 19th 2017 @ 5:01am | ! Report

          Franklin’s own words when answering the question on his move… “To win flags”. So we’re just disregarding that when it doesn’t suit your argument?

          • October 19th 2017 @ 8:39am
            Maggie said | October 19th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

            This reference is so often misused. Franklin was answering a question in a press conference about why he chose the Swans over GWS (where it was expected he would go). His answer was that while he expected GWS would be ‘great’, he wanted ‘success pretty much straight away – that’s why I chose Sydney.’

            If your only definition of ‘success’ is ‘to win flags’ then he hasn’t achieved that. But then to date neither have GWS.


    • October 18th 2017 @ 7:40am
      Sugar coated itch said | October 18th 2017 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      Swans are just one trick pony – I agree the recruiting has been terrible lately – they will not win another flag unless they get speed in their side!! No one will go there because all the money is gone on the 2 Bondi Billonaires

    • Roar Pro

      October 18th 2017 @ 9:16am
      anon said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      In 2014 and 2016 the Swans were the home team in the Grand Final but had to play in Melbourne against Melbourne teams.

      It’s such a huge obstacle to overcome.

      On the flip side, everyone is praising the Tigers for 2017 but the fact remains is that they were gifted two home finals they didn’t earn.

      If the Swans played 2012, 2014 and 2016 on the SCG then they probably have at least two premierships in that period.

      Franklin has been nothing short of a success for Sydney. Coleman Medallist, been All-Australian every season except when he had mental illness.

      If the Swans performances post-round 6 don’t show the culture is strong I don’t know what does.

      Don’t forget that 2016 and 2017 have been rebuilding years for the Swans. They’ve got more games into young players than most teams in the league.

      • October 18th 2017 @ 10:19am
        Reservoir Animal said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        You forget that the Swans went into the 2014 and 2016 GFs saying the MCG held no fears for them.

        I don’t see how they can say that and then say the venue played even the slightest part in the result of those GFs.

        • Roar Guru

          October 18th 2017 @ 10:22am
          TomC said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

          They’re hardly going to say anything else, RA.

          • October 18th 2017 @ 12:05pm
            Deir-ba-zor said | October 18th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

            I don’t recall Adelaide saying anything of the sort

            • Roar Guru

              October 18th 2017 @ 1:04pm
              TomC said | October 18th 2017 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

              Don Pyke said after the game that the venue wasn’t an issue.

              But again, he’s probably not going to say anything else.

              • Roar Pro

                October 18th 2017 @ 5:41pm
                anon said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

                Of course he’s not going to. Pyke is a class act and won’t take anything away from Richmond, even if they required two home finals they didn’t earn to win the premiership.

        • Roar Pro

          October 18th 2017 @ 10:28am
          anon said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

          Of course they’ll say that.

          Longmire’s not going to tell his players they are at a 6 goal disadvantage playing a top 8 team interstate.

          It affects the self-belief of his players, would cause a media frenzy, and probably mean a concerned chat from VFL AFL House.

          The long terms stats show that when a top 8 team plays a fellow top 8 team interstate they lose 80% of the time.

          Hawthorn played 13 out of 15 finals at their home ground including all Grand Finals between 2012-2016.

          They played two finals interstate. Got absolutely blown off the park by West Coast in one and beat a Fremantle team that barely fired a shot in the second half of 2015.

          As great as Hawthorn was they weren’t spectacular in interstate finals (or even preliminary finals on the MCG).

          • October 18th 2017 @ 12:56pm
            truetigerfan said | October 18th 2017 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

            Complaining again, anon? Making excuses again? Richmond played the most dominant finals series ever! Carna Mighty Tigers!

          • October 18th 2017 @ 1:01pm
            Reservoir Animal said | October 18th 2017 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

            “Of course they’ll say that”

            If non-Victorian teams are serious about getting the Grand Final moved interstate then they need to maintain a consistent argument at all times and not change it when it suits them.

            MattyB- you have no credibility on this argument, given that you also want to kill off 8 of Melbourne’s 9 clubs and since you think Perth’s new stadium (transport anyone?) is somehow worthy of events that deserve a 100K crowd.

            • Roar Guru

              October 18th 2017 @ 1:07pm
              TomC said | October 18th 2017 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

              No they don’t. Nor should they.

              They can say whatever they like behind closed doors but in public they can hardly tell their fans and sponsors that they have less chance of winning the premiership than other clubs, but give us your money anyway.

              It doesn’t mean the rest of us have to pretend that where the game is played makes no difference at all, which is obviously nonsense.

              • October 18th 2017 @ 4:30pm
                Reservoir Animal said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

                “They can say whatever they like behind closed doors but in public they can hardly tell their fans and sponsors that they have less chance of winning the premiership than other clubs, but give us your money anyway.”

                Well, if they’re allowed to be hypocryts then I’m allowed to say that MCG Grand Finals are good for the national competition.

            • October 18th 2017 @ 1:19pm
              Mattyb said | October 18th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

              RA,I think there’s to many Victorian clubs,that doesn’t mean I have no credibility,it just means I have a different opinion to you and many people have that view,on both sides.
              I don’t want to kill any clubs,in fact I’ve offered a suggestion that re structures the league with all clubs remaining.
              You keep saying stadiums have to be 100k but only 35k members of competing teams attend the GF.
              You are still yet to acknowledge the world class facilities and security of the new Perth Stadium.

              • October 18th 2017 @ 4:29pm
                Reservoir Animal said | October 18th 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

                I have acknowledge the Perth Stadium’s security facilities. I just wish more people were allowed to make use of them. You have not acknowledged that the stadium will be inaccessible by car, and its PT plan will leave some fans (assuming a full-house crowd) waiting 75 minutes after game’s end before they can leave. And even that plan is based on money the government currently can’t find.

                If 65K Grand Final seats automatically go to people other than club members, that means zero club member tickets at virtually all other AFL venues. And if you don’t understand that merger means death then you are not a true football fan.

                Although I’m sure Ross Oakley would have you as a champagne-drinking buddy.

          • October 18th 2017 @ 8:15pm
            Mattician6x6 said | October 18th 2017 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

            Anon no coach or team would ever say it because they would never believe it, both Sydney and a crows were red hot favourites going in to last two grand final. In 2016 franklin rolled his ankle early and without him impacting Sydney lost ( only in last ten minutes mind you), then crows should of been at least 4-7goals in front before Richmond got their run on with 5 mins left in second quarter, but due to poor ball movement and their forward line not firing they weren’t and once Richmond gained control they were mentally fragile due to blowing opportunities. The mcg has no effect on the outcome of grand finals the team that plays better and nails their chances inevitably win, it’s footy it’s simple.

        • October 18th 2017 @ 10:29am
          Mattyb said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

          RA,what did you expect them to say?
          I have absolutely no problem in saying as a Victorian and a Bulldogs supporter that we had absolutely no right to play the Swans in a GF at home when we finished seventh and they finished first in 2016,this is no longer the VFL.

    • October 18th 2017 @ 9:29am
      Andrew Hurrell said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report

      The Tippet and Franklin recruitments came out of the blue from the Swans and as you say Stuart, ran completely against their previous ‘moneyball’, value driven approach to trading. That it happened at the same time GWS entered the comp suggests getting ‘drawcards’ became a priority, in an expected battle for fans. No doubt the Swans are winning on that score. Ultimately though, when asking why did the Swans sign Franklin, I’m reminded of the old joke, “why does a dog lick it’s balls? The answer – ‘because it can’.”

    • October 18th 2017 @ 9:40am
      mickyo said | October 18th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      The Tippet recruitment has been a failure, but Buddy has been an undoubted success regardless of whether a premiership is achieved or not, a premiership would be the absolute icing on the cake.

      The game has never been stronger in Sydney – period – ever, so strong in parts of Sydney that kids are being turned away from clubs due to lack of facilities and grounds, that is IMO attributable to the Swans culture and the recruitment of Buddy and to AFLW.

    • October 18th 2017 @ 10:22am
      andyl12 said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Yes that’s right. The culture may still exist in name, but the recruitment of Buddy and Tippett showed that the club no longer wanted to treat all players as equals.

      Then there was the 2014 GF- the type of result that the “Bloods Culture” was meant to be all about avoiding. They prided themselves on never getting smashed either physically or on the scoreboard- that pride died forever on GF Day 2014 while in the same breath Hawthorn imposed themselves as football’s benchmark team and the greatest side the AFL era has seen.

      And that’s all without mentioning the whinging about the loss of COLA and trade restrictions that were designed to prevent COLA from being further abused.

      • Roar Pro

        October 18th 2017 @ 10:38am
        anon said | October 18th 2017 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        Yes that’s right. The culture may still exist in name, but the recruitment of Buddy and Tippett showed that the club no longer wanted to treat all players as equals.

        Since when are all players equal and get paid equally?

        If there are fringe players on the list who think Franklin should be paid equally to them then they are delusional white ants that need to be kicked to the curb.

        Tippett has been a disaster but even then $800k per year wasn’t outrageous for a big forward. That’s what it costs if you want to pry one from another club.

        Motlop going to Port for $600k — now that’s a joke.

        Franklin has been a bargain so far at just over $1 million per season. Produced every year with no deterioration in form.

        As for the 2014 GF, it’s tough to play Hawthorn on the MCG (Sydney had actually earned home ground advantage but it was gifted to Hawthorn on account of being Victorian).

        Look at Adelaide this year. Completely different team at the MCG. They’ve lost 4 games in 2 years at the Adelaide Oval.

        Richmond won 13/15 on the MCG this year. 50/50 team away from the MCG.

        Venue matters.

        • October 18th 2017 @ 1:03pm
          andyl12 said | October 18th 2017 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

          “Franklin has been a bargain so far at just over $1 million per season. Produced every year with no deterioration in form.”

          He said he was going there to win premierships. The club said they were recruiting him to win premierships. Therefore they haven’t gotten their money’s worth, especially when you consider how many more he could’ve won at Hawthorn.

          “Sydney had actually earned home ground advantage but it was gifted to Hawthorn on account of being Victorian”

          The Swans chose to leave Victoria. Nobody else should have to pay the price for that. And anyway, good teams win anywhere and don’t whinge.

          • Roar Pro

            October 18th 2017 @ 5:39pm
            anon said | October 18th 2017 @ 5:39pm | ! Report

            Every player goes somewhere because they think they can win a premiership.

            As greedy as Ablett was turning his back on Geelong, he legitimately thought he’d take Gold Coast to a premiership before his career finished.

            • October 19th 2017 @ 5:38am
              andyl12 said | October 19th 2017 @ 5:38am | ! Report

              What’s your point? That Buddy and Ablett were downright wrong to think what they thought?

        • October 18th 2017 @ 1:48pm
          truetigerfan said | October 18th 2017 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

          Why so bitter, dude? Play that game in Adelaide with same seating allocation percentages and you’d get the same result! Or would they, Adelaide, have the right to refuse entry to non-Adelaide supporters? Conspiracy theories . . . rubbish!

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