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Finals Preview: Swans Young Guns

With five players from the Sydney Swans in the All Australian Team it is easy to see why they are one of the favourites for this years flag. All of the top teams have a mix of elite players, solid contributors and emerging young talent.  However, I believe it’s been some time since a serious premiership contender has had such a large contingent of first year and rookie players. If the Swans are to go all the way these young guns will need to withstand, and thrive in the pressure cooker of finals footy.


Here is an analysis of our key young talent.


No.5 Isaac Heeney


Selected with pick No.18 overall in the 2014 Draft. Had a sensational start to his second year playing deep forward next to Franklin. After a quiet patch mid-year he was rested and dropped to the Seconds.  He has returned playing higher up the ground and in good nick. A beautiful mover, a strong mark and penetrating kick, expect to see him roaming far and wide as a linking player.


2016 Stats: 26 goals. Averaging 15.1 disposals in 20 games.


No.14 Callum Mills


Selected with pick No.3 overall in the 2015 Draft, the Academy kid has been a revelation at half back. Red hot favourite for the Rising Star Medal, he is assured and courageous, a beautiful kick and looks like he’s been playing at the top level for years. He links beautifully with the experienced crew of Grundy, Rampe and Smith and will be a major contributor in the big games.


2016 Stats: Averaging 19.4 disposals in 20 games.


No.29 George Hewett


Drafted No.32 overall in 2013, he is still only 20 years old.  After two solid seasons in the NEAFL he debuted in the round one shellacking of the Magpies. Not a fashionable looking player, nevertheless he is hard over the ball, a strong tackler and has good hands.  He is a reliable mark and kick for goal. He has had a couple of quiet games over the year, though has the temperament to contribute in big games.


2016 Stats: 16 goals. Averaging 13 disposals in 20 games.


No.31 Harrison Marsh


Drafted no.44 overall in 2012. Delisted and rookie drafted in 2015. Finally broke through this year and looked capable down back playing on smalls and talls. Good pace, though has a tendency to fumble under pressure. Probably not a first choice player, though capable of contributing, if required.


2016 Stats: Averaging 11 disposals in 4 games.


No.35 Sam Naismith


2013 Rookie Draft. Played the last game of the year in 2014. Elevated 2015. Persistent injury limited the progress of the 205cm ruckman, though word around the club was that once he got the fitness and games under his belt he would be a cracker. Injuries to Tippett and Sinclair opened the door in the second half of the year.  He has been a revelation and has changed the way we play. With a strong leap and natural athleticism he is giving our on ballers first use of the ball. He will be a key to our finals success and will enable Tippett to spend more time up forward.


2016 Stats: Averaging 24.6 hit outs, 9.3 disposals in 8 games.


No.36 Aliir Aliir


Drafted No.44 overall in 2013. His two years in the NEAFL has been crucial in building the confidence of the Kenyan born Sudanese refugee. Played a few games early in the year though looked tentative. Once he returned in the second half of the year he has looked like a natural born player. Assured, strong in the air and cat like on the ground, he has a great awareness of when to defend and when to attack. The stronger teams will attempt to isolate him. I think he will stand up when it matters.


2016 Stats: Averaging 14.7 disposals, 4.7 marks in 10 games.


No.41 Tom Papley


Rookie Draft 2015. The surprise of the season has been the small crumbing forward and grandson of 1960’s South Best & Fairest Max Papley. Debuted in the first round off the rookie list with Mills and Hewett and had an immediate impact.  He is a genuine front and centre roving forward who knows how to snap a goal.  We have needed a player like this for years. When not hitting the scoreboard he applies terrier like pressure on the backs. He has had a few quiet games and also missed over a month mid-season with shin soreness. He may be vulnerable if team balance dictates a different mix. He will contribute if given the chance.


2016 Stats: 20 goals. Averaging 11.9 disposals in 16 games.


No.42 Xavier Richards


2013 Rookie Draft.  Elevated 2014. Had only played 2 games prior to this season, though had been a solid contributor down back in the NEAFL over three seasons. His chances looked limited when Aliir and Marsh were preferred down back when needed. The master stroke came when he was swung forward in the Seconds and kicked 26 goals in 6 games. He has now taken the spot in the ones that was ear marked for the luckless Sam Reid. He has elite speed, is good above his head and is a nice kick for goal. His athleticism provides a link from defence to attack and also a foil for Buddy. As a third tall forward he can make an impact. Looks capable of being as good as Big Ted.


2016 Stats: 10 goals. Averaging 12.3 disposals, 6 marks in 10 games.


Injury came at the wrong time for Zak Jones, Ted Richards, Jeremy Laidler and Callum Sinclair, however these lads have invigorated the team and I’m confident they can combine with the elites to take us far in to the finals.


About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.


  1. Peter Schumacher says

    Sydney can look to October with great confidence, I predict that in the first instance they will easily account for GWS, I reckon 57 points.

  2. Chris bracher says

    “I dips me lid” Keiran, to the Swans hierarchy who have managed this transition. Whether a Premiership comes this year or otherwise, other clubs must be looking on and saying ” how do they do that?”. Sure, we have had the academy kids to draw upon but we have consistently delivered when it comes to player development.

  3. jan courtin says

    A fantastic year for all the young ones, Keiran, but we just have to hope they can continue in the fine form and not be overwhelmed by the pressure of finals!
    Go Bloods!

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