NEAFL Season Preview: Can the Swans finally break the hoodoo?

The Sydney Swans last season climbed the NEAFL mountain for the second consecutive season, and just like they did in 2016, fell agonisingly short just before they reached the peak.

Four grand finals in the last five season is an exceptional performance by any measure, but with no grand final wins to their name silverware continues to elude them.

The Swans had one of their best seasons in the NEAFL last year, dropping just one game en-route to their second consecutive grand final.

Their bogey team proved to be none other than the Brisbane Lions, losing in the first Round of the season by 26 points before eventually falling 3 agonising points short in the grand final.

Year after year, the Swans NEAFL team has continued to pump out AFL-ready players. Academy prospects Callum Mills and Isaac Heeney ply their trade on a regular basis in the AFL, while Dean Towers, Lewis Melican, George Hewett, Harry Cunningham and Robbie Fox have all done their apprenticeships.

The Swans boast plenty of AFL-ready talent on their list this season and with their 2017 intake of recruits, the future is exciting for their NEAFL and AFL teams.

WHO'S NEW
Geelong Falcon's speedster Matthew Ling was the first cab off the rank for the Swans in last November's AFL National Draft. Fellow Geelong Falcon Tom McCartin was next, along with Riley Stoddart from the Eastern Rangers.

Angus Styles and Joel Amartey were taken in the rookie drafts, while Swan favourite Alex Johnson was re-drafted.

James Bell and Jake Brown rounded out the selections as Category B rookies, taken from the Sydney Swans Academy.

THE DRAW
The Swans kick the season off with a home game curtain raiser against Western Sydney University Giants in Round 1, before traveling to Brisbane for their grand-final rematch in Round 2.

A bye follows, then another road-trip to Brisbane for the Suns. The Swans face tough road trips to Brisbane twice for the Suns and Lions before their next bye.

The final four games of the season see the Swans play the three other AFL-backed teams; Brisbane and Gold Coast at the SCG and the Giants at Spotless.

It's a challenging draw with a lot of travel, more so in the first half of the season.

STAR POWER
The Swans have a generous mix of youth and experience this season, and they'll be looking for their senior players to lead the way.

One player that impressed last year was NEAFL Team of the Year member Jordan Dawson, who experienced somewhat of a renaissance under Rhyce Shaw.

He reinvented himself as a goal kicking midfielder and after a handful of rounds, started to dominate the competition. For the Swans to win the big games this season, he's going to have to lead the way from the front.

Senior players Dan Robinson, Jordan Foote, Aliir Aliir and James Rose featured prominently last season, and with Brandon Jack, Shaun Edwards, Jeremy Laidler and Sam Murray moving on in the off-season, they will need to step-up and fill the void.

ROOKIE WATCH
Jack Maibaum is the long-term replacement full back for Heath Grundy and will take time to develop.

More importantly, players like Colin O'Riordan who've been around the club for a while, need to push forward their claim to senior football.

They're going to have stiff competition with James Bell and Jake Brown already proving themselves as Academy members, as well as Tom McCartin impressing in the pre-season and Riley Stoddart getting a run in the JLT.

IT WILL BE A GREAT YEAR IF..._
The Swans can finally break their Grand Final voodoo. They're going to need all hands on deck to win it this year.

More importantly for the Swans, that their senior squad continues to get plenty of development time into the players that need it, such as Rose, Dawson, Robinson, Foote, Aliir Aliir, Stoddart, McCartin, O'Riordan, Bell and Brown.

The Swans need the young players always pushing through and putting pressure on the senior squad, and with injuries to key players before the season started, it gives Darcy Cameron and Joel Amartey the perfect opportunity to step-up.

There's plenty of AFL talent on the list and they're in good hands with Jeremy Laidler and Tadhg Kennelly.

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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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