Based in New South Wales since 1982, the Sydney Swans have been a team based in a predominantly rugby environment, and up until the last few years, they barely had any backyard talent for them to pick from to help develop a team.
They were a team that relied on superstars to help build their brand, and throughout their 38 seasons in the VFL/AFL in Sydney, the Swans have held copious amounts of superstar talent.
The big-name superstars included Warwick Capper, Tony Lockett, Adam Goodes, Michael O’Loughlin and many more.
They were explosive players with the ability to change the game in a handful of minutes, and these stars helped build the Swans’ name in Sydney in an environment that never suited Australian rules football.
Today, the Swans have one of the great key forwards of football history in Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, as well as an intriguing nucleus of young stars in Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills, Nick Blakey, Oliver Florent and Will Hayward to go with key veteran contributors such as Jake Lloyd, Dane Rampe and Luke Parker.
Unfortunately, with four-time Coleman Medal winner Franklin playing just ten games in 2019, as well as many of their stars that took the club to three grand finals in five years from 2012-2016 ageing, retiring or on their last legs, the Swans finished 15th.
The Swans were not bad statistically, but some glaring issues stood out: a papier mache ruck crew, lead by Callum Sinclair and Sam Reid, managed only 28.5 hitouts per game, the second-least in the AFL (following the Bulldogs), while the Swans finished second-worst in inside 50s per game with just 47.7 per game, behind just the Gold Coast.
The Swans ruck struggles also contributed to the third worst clearance total in the AFL (34.5 per game), and the Swans also recorded the 6th-least tackles inside 50 per game, recording 9.5 per contest.
Good ruckmen can be found cheap; the two premier ruckmen of the AFL in Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn were drafted 18th and 34th respectively. The man whose season was so dominant that he ended up with the fourth most hitouts in AFL history (as well as the most in the league), Jarrod Witts, was acquired by the Gold Coast for picks 44 and 62 in the 2016 trade period.
Acquiring a good ruckman to fix the Swans’ biggest issue won’t be expensive, but for a team who finished fourth last, adding a solid ruckman likely won’t automatically vault the Swans back into finals contention.
The team needs more juice to get there, and maybe that would come in the form of Essendon star Joe Daniher.
The son of a gun (and the nephew of a fair few others), Daniher’s career to this point has involved the highest of highs and some very low lows.
The 10th pick in the 2012 AFL Draft, a father-son pick who could have gone to Sydney if he wanted (his father Anthony played over 100 games for both the Swans and the Bombers), at this stage Daniher has played 104 games for Essendon, winning a best and fairest in 2017, making the All Australian team that same year, and the big man has scored 188 goals across his career so far.
His best season was undoubtedly 2017, a year when he scored 65 goals and helped an Essendon team that had been rampaged by the ASADA findings a season before to seventh place and a finals finish. In the two seasons since, Daniher has played just 11 games for 15 goals, struggling with accuracy, consistency, and copious injuries.
Though he did show flashes, including scoring four goals in an exceptional performance on Anzac Day against Collingwood in 2019, it simply wasn’t enough overall for a man who is reportedly making nearly $700k a year on a big deal at Tullamarine.
Even when he did play in 2019, his goal accuracy of 50 per cent was subpar in his nine games, and thus the rumours have come in that Daniher will go to Sydney in an attempt to revitalise his career playing a supplementary role to superstar Buddy Franklin, which could pay massive dividends for both team and player.
For the first time in Buddy’s stint in the Harbour, he would get a capable twin-tower in the forward line. As valiant as the efforts of Sam Reid and Kurt Tippett have been, they’ve barely been of any general assistance to Franklin, so Daniher will bring something to Sydney that hasn’t been seen in many years. Whether bringing Daniher to Sydney will pay dividends or not, however, is a completely different story.
Daniher is not a forward who can move up the ground and get his own footy; he is a big man who relies on great delivery from his midfielders in order to produce results, so his presence is unlikely to affect Sydney’s abhorrent abhorrent inside 50 totals too much.
The reality is, as talented as Daniher is, he would struggle to get much of the footy as the second-option on a team that registered the second-worst inside 50 numbers in the game, and new key forwards don’t really help make these numbers a significant amount better, so without better entry into Sydney’s forward-50, Daniher’s productivity would likely be inconsistent in NSW.
Adding Daniher also doesn’t fix the Swans’ ruck issues; though adding a capable ruckman would absolutely help fix that problem, and lead to more opportunities for Daniher, no rumours of Sydney’s plans for the ruck spot have been mentioned yet, and if this issue remains an issue, Sydney will continue to struggle getting the ball to their forwards.
If Sydney can get more inside-50s with Daniher in their forward line, the Daniher-Franklin combo would be downright scary and nearly impossible to game plan against. However, as Sydney stands at the moment, it is hard to see what exactly Daniher brings to a team that won’t get the ball to him easily.
A good ruckman would help change that, and Sydney is good at developing players, and if a ruckman can be acquired with Daniher in the trade period, expect Sydney to rise up the ladder following a poor 2019 campaign.