The Swans acted swiftly after their disappointing end to the season in the elimination final, when they were too slow with leg speed and ball movement to match Greater Western Sydney in the battle of the bridge in Week 1 of the finals.
Although the two players offered open clearances to return to Melbourne are both top-100 players at the club, the Swans still have eight top-100 game-players and eight top-100 goal-kickers at the club, which is not a surprising statistic given the club’s run of success in the past five years.
In fact every year but one since Paul Roos’s first full-time year as coach the Swans have played finals, with the one blemish being in Roos’s second-last season at the helm in 2009, when they finished 12th.
John Longmire’s reign of eight years includes one premiership and two losing grand final appearances so there is little doubt that he has got the culture of the club and the mix of players right. However, 2018 was the lowest the club has finished under his rule, and the Swans have now lost seven of their last 10 finals games.
The two players exiting so far – Dan Hannebery, who is a top-30 game player and equal 71st goal-kicker, and Gary Rohan,w ho is equal 69th int he goal-kicking stakes with Brett Kirk – have both been good servants of the club and no doubt will be valuable additions to their destination teams.
The Swans blooded only five recruits during the year, which is fewer than most other clubs, and only two of those stood out as exciting prospects.
Ben Ronke, who played his first game in Round 6, showed his goal-kicking skills in Round 8, when he kicked seven goals against Hawthorn, and again in Round 17, when he kicked five against the Kangaroos, to finish the year with a total of 24 goals from his 18 games. Tom McCartin joined the team in Round 8 and missed only one game for the remainder of the season.
However, this stat is mitigated to some extent by the success of the second-year recruits at the club, in particular Will Hayward but also Oliver Florent and Nic Newman played well enough to get a significant number of games under their belts. Whilst George Hewett’s 71 games in three seasons is amazing.
Amongst the Swans goal-kickers is the greatest goal-scorer of the last decade, Lance Franklin. Buddy is now ninth on the AFL’s all-time goal-scoring list and ninth on the Swans’ list.
Franklin turns 32 next January, and although injury restricted him to just 19 games and 57 goals in 2018, he should have a few good years left. The question is: has Sydney become too Buddy-focused when they should be sharing the goal scoring amongst the other top-100 goal-scorers remaining at the club?
Franklin is such a mercurial player that their system will continue to work and they will be potential finalists for many years to come.