Tom Papley recently announced his desire to remain a Swan until at least 2023, turning his back on a return home to Victoria.
For the first time in his nine years at the helm John Longmire will be an interested spectator only as the AFL finals get underway.
Sydney finished the 2019 season 15th on the ladder with only eight wins and all of 14 losses, their worst result in the last decade by a long way.
During that time the Swans have been a magnificent asset to the AFL, continuing to develop a culture and presence in a city not known for its commitment to Aussie Rules football.
The club under Paul Roos and Longmire developed a winning culture similar to Hawthorn. They had the same emphasis on player management and thus listened to the pleas of Gary Rohan when he requested a return to Melbourne, knowing that by trading him to Geelong there was a risk that he would hurt them when they played the Cats.
This was not to be, as he had only four touches in their first encounter in Round 11 and was missing from their second encounter in Round 19. They also cleared 28-year-old Dan Hannebery to St Kilda, but maybe that was a bit more hard-nosed and calculating given Hannebery, No. 30 on the all-time games-played list and No. 75 on Sydney’s goal-kicking list, didn’t play a game for the Saints until Round 15. By the time the two teams met in a dead rubber in Round 23, although he had his best game for the Saints, there was no way known Sydney wouldn’t win to celebrate the achievements of three great champions.
Jarrad McVeigh’s 325th game meant he finished his career at the Swans as the second greatest game player of all time. His 201st goal for the club saw him pass former captain Paul Kelly to become the 22nd greatest goalscorer of all time at Sydney.
The game was also important for Kieren Jack, who drew level with teammate Heath Grundy to claim equal seventh on Sydney’s all-time top-100 game players list. He also finished 34th on Sydney’s goal-kicking list.
Mention should also be made of Nick Smith, who played his 211th and last game for the club in 2018. Smith was a valuable contributor and sits 29th among the club’s all-time top-100 game players. He also wore the No. 40 jumper on to the ground, the second most number of times anyone’s done so in the AFL.
Lance Franklin fell one game short of finishing among Sydney’s top 100 game players, but we can look forward to more exciting games from him in 2020.
Sydney introduced nine new players to the team during 2019, including three imports: Daniel Menzel (ex-Geelong), Jackson Thurlow (ex-Geelong) and Ryan Clark (ex-North Melbourne). They all showed promise, but I believe Gary Rowan has already given Geelong the edge in the 2019 trade battle between the two clubs.
There is no doubt the outstanding recruit for the Swans was Nick Blakey, who missed only one game for the season and scored 19 goals. He along with other millennium babies Justin McInerney and James Rowbottom and second-year players Ben Ronke, Tom McCartin and Colin O’Riordan will combine with elite players Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker, Dane Rampe, Sam Reid and Jake Lloyd and goal-kicking elites Tom Papley and Isaac Heeney to ensure Sydney’s absence from the final eight is a short one.