The young Swans shocked the AFL in 2021, catapulting into sixth place after finishing sixteenth in 2020. With high expectations on Sydney coming into 2022, can they live up to the hype and continue on their upward trajectory?
Jack Tobin will be previewing EVERY team in the lead up to the 2022 season, while PuntingInDanger and his crew will be back this year to give their betting tips on every game. Be sure to head to the AFL Tips page for regular updates!
Sydney Swans Season Preview
In: Peter Ladhams (Port Adelaide), Angus Sheldrick (Pick 18), Matthew Roberts (Pick 34), Corey Warner (Pick 40), Lachlan Rankin (Pick 58)
Out: Jordan Dawson (Adelaide), George Hewett (Carlton)
It was a challenging off-season for the Swans who lost young star Jordan Dawson who went home to South Australia, as well as George Hewett who has been a crucial role player for Sydney over the past few years. Sydney brought in Peter Ladhams giving them some much needed ruck depth, as well as securing draft bolter Angus Sheldrick who adds a big body to the Swans midfield for the future.
After being renowned as a dour team for many years, the Swans changed to a fast moving brand of football in 2021 and it paid dividends. Don Pyke came in as an assistant coach and changed the way Sydney moved the ball, as they became the second highest scoring team in the AFL. Lance Franklin kicked 51 goals from 18 games as he had a relatively injury free season.
While the narrative around the Swans’ youth was pushed largely in 2021, it’s important to note that it was Sydney’s experienced players who pushed them to an Elimination Final appearance. Jake Lloyd (27), Luke Parker (27), Callum Mills (27) and Josh Kennedy (24) were the Swans top four leading disposal getters. Lance Franklin (51), Tom Papley (43) and Isaac Heeney (36) were the Swans top three goal kickers. All of these players have played over 100 games, and were the reason the Swans made the top eight.
The new rules suited the Swans as the game opened up, but with teams having a year to develop strategies to slow the game, it will be intriguing to see if the Swans can still move the ball in the manner that they did last season. The Swans have to play finalists GWS, Essendon and the Western Bulldogs twice, as well as St Kilda twice who were a game outside the top eight. Their fixture is significantly more difficult in 2022 than it was in 2021.
Sydney started 2021 with four wins from their first four games, which set up their season. 2022 begins with games against Giants, Cats and Bulldogs - the Semi Finalist, Preliminary Finalist and the Grand Finalist. There’s a real possibility that the Swans are 0-3 to begin the season, and it’s a long way back from there.
Breakout Player: Justin McInerny
A lot of the hype around Sydney’s youngsters surrounds Errol Gulden, Braeden Campbell, Logan McDonald and Chad Warner. However, Justin McInerny is coming off an outstanding campaign in 2021. McInerny averaged 18 disposals per game in his third season, and he lifted at the end of the season, averaging 21 disposals per game in the Swans final five games of 2021. McInerny was on a limited program in the 2021 preseason after a back injury, so with an uninterrupted preseason coming into this season, he will be set to take his game to a new level.
What Do The Swans Need To Do In 2022?
The Swans biggest challenge this season will be handling the expectations that surround them. There was no pressure on Sydney in 2021 and opposing sides will be ready for them coming into this season. Outside of the Sydney lockdown, the Swans didn’t have to face too much adversity. They had a healthy list, as most things went their way in 2021. Tom Papley won’t feature in the first month of the season, while Callum Mills and James Rowbottom are in a race against the clock to be fit for round one. How they handle these challenges will be a fascinating watch, and will go a long way to dictating how their season pans out.
The follow up season after a shock finals appearance for a club is often a difficult season, St Kilda in 2021 and Melbourne in 2019 are recent examples of that. The increase in fixture difficulty, expectations as well as game planning from opposition sides can make it difficult for those sides to back up a successful season. Sydney’s reliance on their veterans, in particular Franklin and Papley (who will miss the first month of the season through injury) to kick the majority of their goals is a major concern. The gap between the sides finishing anywhere from sixth to twelfth is as close as it has ever been. The Swans faded out in the second half of 2022 after a red hot start, and with clubs like Richmond and Carlton looking to bounce back after disappointing campaigns, Sydney will just miss the eight.