These are not the Swans you're looking for

Given the Swans precarious and horrid start to the season, it's easy to simply write them off, dismiss them as irrelevant and ignore them for the rest of the season.

As the Swans enter the mid-season bye, disappointing doesn't even do their stuttering season justice. The season started off with so much promise; finishing first for the second time in three season, third grand final in five years and a slew of returning senior players from injury, not to mention their pre-season training performances.

But now the first half is over, done and dusted, it's over, kaput. It's a first half that's kicked the proverbial bucket, broken it apart, with your wedged firmly in it. A bucket that many of us have been sick into lately.

There was so much optimism that was felt by the supporters, it was all there for everyone to see. The Swans were proactive, went to the draft and went for fast young players. They didn't sit on their hands, they did their business, they got the team ready, they proved they're a well run organisation.

Before the first game of the season, everything was fantastic, A-OK and looking like another tilt at the flag. I was there, you were there, we were all there, we all remember. Then the players just threw it away, couldn't motivate themselves, and at times looked like they'd never played together before, let alone at all.

To say it's a mixed bag is doing the first-half of the season a kindness I think. It's a mixed bag, if both bags are different kinds of shit, like one is full of horse shit, and the other dog. So there's your mixed bags, just mix them together in the proportions you prefer, 75% horse, 25% dog, whichever you like.

But anyway, I digress. It's taken a lot out of me, as I'm sure you all have suffered the same indignity, the same pain, losing to teams we should never lose to, before turning into the Hulk for three weeks and mercilessly pounding on Brisbane, North Melbourne and St Kilda.

Pre-season expectations

The Swans were expected to challenge for the flag again, if not win it. With basically the same line up as last year, albeit with Tom Mitchell fleeing to the Hawks, it should have been easier for us. How wrong we were.

The season was effectively dead on arrival against Port Adelaide, with a number of senior players working their way through pre-season injuries, as well as dealing with an unprecedented level of unfitness that would shock any other club.

Season performance to date

Soul crushing defeat followed by soul crushing defeat adequately sums up our start to the season, our equal worst since 1995.

The six game losing streak (7 if you include the grand final) to start the season was our equal worst since 1993. Not since the old dog days have the Swans started the season so poorly.

A great reflection of the club, the loyalty of the supporters and just how good it is to be around, the Swans obliterated their membership record. It currently stands at 57,775, more than 3,000 over last season. It's sort of halted over the last 4-6 weeks as the Swans made a mess of everything on the field.

A ray of hope was shone back into the season, with moralising and confidence boosting wins against Brisbane Lions, North Melbourne and St Kilda, with the 8 goal win against the Saints easily the best.

Then the Hawks game and that first half, was like the first 6 weeks all over again. Talk about taking flipping things upside down.

Best win so far

By far the Saints game. Convincing four quarter effort, a lot of hard work and two-way Swans running, capped off with Buddy getting his mojo back. The way the Swans ran in numbers, pressured the Saints into turn overs and dominated play in the second half was exactly the way they played all of last year.

Worst loss so far

It's really hard to go past the Carlton loss, even though the Collingwood game gets a mention. This is quite literally the proverbial unloseable. Up at quarter time and half-time, only to lose by four goals with an extraordinarily limp second half.

The players were criticised by all and sundry for another soul crushing loss that was right up there with the worst of the last decade. I'd take a 50 point hammering at the hands Hawks, heck even that 80 point shit shower belting that dished out several years ago, to that garbage at the MCG.

Worst of all was that no one played for the team.

Best player

Lance Franklin by a mile. He's won games off his own boot (8 goals against Lions), almost won games off his own boot (Dogs, Hawks) and has been consistently amongst the best Swans each game. He's right up there in the Bob Skilton medal race and has probably racked up the most votes.

The AFLPA and coaches votes might have it different, but he's been by far and away the greatest asset and most important player of the Swans.

Worst player

It's really hard to look past Kurt Tippett. He's paid ridiculous sums of money and has hardly looked fit when he's been fit, and has found himself regularly injured.

He hurt his ankle in round 2, was rushed back and hurt his hip, but the last two games he's played he's been Mr Invisible and out played by maligned ruckman, Callum Sinclair.

Gary Rohan has to get a mention here as well, because he's been in the same boat as Tippett. He was injured to start the season, but came back with decent fitness and was ineffective from the get-go.

They're both confidence players and both need good form to play and a really good training block before they're at peak fitness. Hopefully with the bye upon us, they'll come back fit and firing. When they're at their best they're definitely among the better Swans players.

All Australian chances

Two players stand out for the Swans, one more so than any, and that's Lance Franklin. He's hit them from everywhere and he's just about the only player you'll ever see, that's as likely to kick a goal from eight or eighty metres out.

Captain Josh Kennedy also gets mention now that he's close to his best, although his early season form was like the rest of his team, quite poor. In 2016, he averaged 31.5 disposals, and this year that's dropped down to 29.1 per game. He's won the second-most clearances and contested possessions of any player in the competition.

How the recruits have fared

Oliver Florent has been in and out of the side and has shown a bit of what he can do. Given his small physical stature and lack of upper body strength, his impact after the first quarter of most games he's played has been swiftly curtailed. His best moments have been the goal assist against the Giants and the goal assist against the Hawks.

Will Hayward has thrived since he got his chance, with an exceptional 16 possession debut against the Dogs, followed up with 3 goals against the Pies when all the other struggled. He's been a bit hit and miss recently, but that can be attributed to fatigue.

Robbie Fox Showed a bit when he first started, could be a decent defender for the Swans.

Most improved

There's a couple of candidates here, Jake Lloyd, Zak Jones, George Hewett, but the obvious stand out here is Nic Newman. Exceptional player in the NEAFL last year, especially the finals series, signed an extension at the end of last year and promoted from the rookie list. The 23-year-old has been immense for the Swans off half-back, proving to be as effective, and important as Nick Malceski.

Coach pressure gauge

Well, at the Swans there's no pressure. If they were a Melbourne based club that would be a different matter. It's been a shocking start to the season, the worst for the Swans in almost 25 years, and it's not something you necessarily want to associate yourself with.

If the team stays this way for the rest of the season, then there's going to be pressure. But given that Longmire and his coaching staff have tried to change the game plan, tried to implement zonal defending and tried to work on something that will hopefully yield results in the long term, you give them the benefit of the doubt.

Players

1: James Rose
5
Just played the 1 game this year coming in as an emergency. Wasn't a good game for him or the team.
3: Jarrad McVeigh
6
Has played two games this season before injuring himself, having returned from injury.
4: Dan Hannebery
6.5
Played every game, and apart from two games, has been well off his best
5: Isaac Heeney
6
Returned from injury and has had one really good game, but quiet in the rest.
6: Jordan Foote
4.5
Had plenty of chances early in the season in the midfield and run-with roles, but fundamentally limited.
7: Harry Cunningham
6.5
Finally found a niche as a half-forward flanker, before injuring himself.
8: Kurt Tippett
4.5
Inured and when he's played has been quite poor, convincingly out rucked by almost every opponent.
9: Will Hayward
7
Has been a tremendous start to his career, averaging almost 3 marks and a goal a game. Pretty good return from an 18 year old.
10: Zak Jones
7.5
Has stepped up big time bad bar a few brain fades and quiet games, has been a standout for the Swans
11: Jeremy Laidler
6
Hard to really hate him, he's been smack bang on his career averages in the two changes he's had. He's slow and can't play big, but hasn't been the worst, or what's wrong with the team.
12: Josh Kennedy
7.5
The best Swans midfielder by a mile, has lead from the front and done it all. 2nd in the AFL in clearances and contested possessions, what a beast.
13: Oliver Florent
5.5
He's not quite ready for the hustle and bustle of the AFL. Shown some flashes, looks like he could be a great player.
14: Callum Mills
7
For a while there was the only Swans defender that could hold his head high. Courage hasn't dropped off, even if his skills have been a mess at times.
15: Kieren Jack
5
Played injured and looked it from the first game. Struggled through each game as it clearly got worse. Undeservedly bashed by half wits in the media.
16: Gary Rohan
5
Hasn't hit the marks, goals, or kicks for that matter, and his fitness has let him down. His pressure is back right up there, but is no where near getting possessions.
18: Callum Sinclair
7
After a pretty poor first season with the Swans, where he openly admitted to not being fit enough, he's taken the 2nd ruck reigns with aplomb.
20: Sam Reid
7
A few big bags, and a few no shows, mixed in with playing every position except coach. You can't give him a shit rating because he's playing every other spot every game.
22: Dean Towers
6.5
Occasionally looks like a capable, if not good footballer. But for someone of his age, he really shouldn't be making the mistakes he makes.
23: Lance Franklin
8.5
This guy is a a freak. 10th all time goal kicker and still banging them on the run from 80, or smashing them through off a step from 55.
24: Dane Rampe
6.5
Rampe 0 - Chain link fence 1
26: Luke Parker
5.5
Has been well down on his best. He still racks up good contested numbers, but his disposal efficiency is way down and his clangers are way up.
27: Dan Robinson
6
This guys is so incredibly unlucky. If he was available, he'd slot straight in. Good accumulator, good user of the ball, but just incredibly unlucky.
28: Nic Newman
7.5
What a debut season for the mature player. He's like cheese, just gets better with age.
29: George Hewett
7
At times the best midfielder, if not best ball winner for the Swans. Has done well.
31: Harry Marsh
6
Unfairly singled out for a lot of mistakes the defenders were making.
33: Brandon Jack
5
Got one game, wasn't very good, booted back to the reserves, where he's dominated every game in the midfield. The MIDFIELD.
34: Jordan Dawson
6
Looks promising albeit a fair way off AFL level.
35: Sam Naismith
6
Really struggled with his knee injury. Hasn't offered us anything in the ruck or around the ground.
36: Aliir Aliir
6
Totally mismanaged in the early part of the season, rushed back when wasn't nearly fit enough, played poorly, dropped when he was improving, crucified for missing an impromptu training session.. that was a month ago.
39: Heath Grundy
6
Was utter bollocks to start the season and should have been dropped. Has worked his way back into form though.
40: Nick Smith
5.5
Was abysmal until the last 3 weeks. Like total garbage. We would have been better off with nothing in that pocket.
41: Tom Papley
7
Really good attack on the ball and doing well with increased minutes in the midfield. His tackling is really nice to watch.
42: Robbie Fox (R)
6.5
Looked promising when he had his chance before injury earlier this year. Could be a decent player.
43: Lewis Melican (R)
6
He's been OK, he's learned from his mistakes and he's improved a lot. But the AFL is no place to be learning your craft. Lacks pace and a lot of upper body strength, worked off the ball far too easily in contests.
44: Jake Lloyd
8
Outstanding first half of the season, arguably the Swans best and most important player. His loss in the first minute against the Hawks proved it.

John Longmire: 6/10, has tried to implement a new game plan using zonal defence, but for reasons unknown, the players just haven't turned up most games. That's not a coaching issue, with Hannebery admitting that the players have been drinking their bath water.

Some things have been in his control and whether or not the message is getting through, it's just not working.

Half-season rating

3/10, D-

It hasn't been the worst thing ever, but it's not far off. Three close games and there would never be any mention, sitting 6-4 and a game or two outside the top 4. Even 5-5 and firmly inside the top 8 would be good.

4-6 gives the Swans hope of challenging for a top 6 spot, even having a tilt at top 4 if results fall their way, but 3-7 is almost all she wrote. With tough games immediately after the bye, 3-7 could quickly turn into 3-9, and then it well and truly is season over, play the kids time.

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Justin Mitchell

Justin is a passionate AFL and Sydney Swans supporter, and football blogger since 2016. All articles are of his own opinion. You can reach him by twitter and Facebook at @theswansblog

Melbourne, Australia http://theswansblog.com

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