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AFL top 100: The champions of Sydney

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1st May, 2020

The Sydney Swans started their life in the Melbourne suburb of South Melbourne, when the South Melbourne Football Club became a foundation member of the Victorian Football League in 1897.

The Bloods – as they were known in these early days – won three VFL premierships in 1909, 1918 and 1933. The club was at its most successful in the 1930s, when key recruits from both Victoria and interstate led to a string of appearances in the finals, including four successive grand final appearances from 1933 to 1936, winning the premiership in 1933.

The collection of players recruited from interstate in 1932 and 1933 became known as South Melbourne’s Foreign Legion. A number of these recruits came from Western Australia, known for its black swans. The location of South Melbourne’s home ground near Albert Park Lake was also known for its swans. For these reasons, the suggestion was made that the club’s emblem should be the Swans, which it became in 1934.

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A turning point for the club came in the 1945 grand final, infamously known as the Bloodbath, which the Swans lost to Carlton by 28 points. Six South Melbourne players were charged with various offences and from that day forward the Swans only appeared in two more finals in their last 36 years as a Melbourne club, being soundly beaten by St Kilda in 1970 and then by Richmond in 1977.


The club was struggling financially and eventually agreed to a proposal that they move to Sydney in 1982.

This millennium the Swans have been a consistent finalist, and it is no surprise that two of the three greatest game players started their career with Sydney in 1999.

Ted Richards, Adam Goodes and Ben McGlynn sing.

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Adam Goodes passed Andrew McLeod’s record of the most number of games played by an Indigenous player in 2014 and held the record until 2019, when Hawthorn’s current champion Shaun Burgoyne played his 373rd game in 2019.

Eventually being named Australian of the Year, Goodes was picked up by the Swans at pick number 43 in the 1997 national draft. He didn’t play his first game until 1999 and retired at the end of the 2015 season after taking extended leave from the game as a result of the booing saga.

During his 372 games, Goodes kicked 464 goals, winning the club’s leading goal-kicker award three years in a row from 2009 to 2011. He currently lies in fourth position on Sydney’s top 100 greatest goal-scorers. Add to this two Brownlow Medals, three Swans best-and-fairest awards and four All Australians and you have an impressive career CV.


Also starting at the Swans in 1999 was Jude Bolton. Picked up from the Calder Cannons as the eighth draft pick in the 1998 draft – one year after Goodes – Bolton played 325 games and retired in 2013.

The same game total was amassed by Jarrad McVeigh before his retirement in 2019. Jarrad McVeigh played his early footy at NSW team Pennant Hills and then for the NSW/ACT Rams team in the TAC Cup.

McVeigh captained the team for six years, won two best-and-fairest awards at the Swans and made All Australian team in 2013. McVeigh is four years older than brother Mark, who was overlooked by the Swans and carved out a career at Essendon.

Goodes and Bolton played as teammates in the Swans’ 2005 premiership win, and were joined by McVeigh in the 2012 triumph and all three are champions of the Swans.