Welcome to the new year

Morning all and welcome to another bright, sunny, hot summer, the perfect start to another year. At least for those of you in the far reaches of the country perhaps, because it's been miserable in Melbourne since the clock ticked 12 on the 1st. Flash flooding hasn't made it easy for a city so used to hitting the beaches to cool off, with hilarious news of a 'poo warning' spreading internationally. No laughing matter for those that went swimming anyway. Thunder asthma, thunder poo, what next?!

Most of you no doubt had busy christmas periods, shopping, cooking, eating, partying and enjoying your christmas holiday, but for many it's back to work today. Myself, it's been an extremely busy time, hosting international guests, cooking up a storm and jetting off to the coast for the weekend before work. I've been neglectful of the blog, but not for much longer.

The off-season is often filled with articles of players training efforts, photos of players sweating bullets and time trial victories, but this year, there's added spice. The Swans have already ticked over 31k members, well on track to surpassing 60k this year and certainly bettering 2016's record season.

It won't be enough to put the club in the top 4 of paid up supporters, but it'll be close. Sustained periods of success helps no doubt, as well as the club placing a premium on public perception, shifting from an amateur club in the early 90s, hanging on by the coat tails, to a powerhouse sporting club in the 2000's.

Swans news since the start of the December has slowly dwindled down as the Christmas period ramped up. Stories of Hannebery dominating the 3km time trials were all the rage in the first week of the month, replaced by the stunning news of Kennedy taking over from McVeigh and Kieren Jack as captain for 2017 and onwards, not to mention his 4 year contract extension.

After the bitter pill of the ever long Tom Mitchell saga, the will he or won't he fandango, like an even shittier episode of Twilight Saga, if that's possible, Kennedy signed an extension as well as Heeney putting pen to paper for 5 years, certainly improved the flavour. Rumours abound of an absurd North Melbourne bid right before signing, no doubt started by some fan with pie sauce down his top, signing on with the club was exactly what the fans needed.

At the climax of the year, the AFL brought christmas forward, bearing bountiful gifts. With a league mandate to ensure that players of all heights, sizes and athletic ability can play, only nominated ruckman can contest ruck contests. This will eliminate the 3rd man up plays, free kicks for blocking around contests and bring back the 1-on-1 duel that Dean Cox and Jason Ball so wonderfully mastered. It'll give the big strong players plenty of opportunity to dominate once again.

Predictably, Jordan Lewis, Lite'n'Easy Hodge and Patrick Dangerfield whined about the rule on twitter. Drive by Hodge and Blicavs can pretty much consider their AFL careers, while Lewis's cheap diving will be the only thing he can deliver on frequently at Melbourne, one of the biggest losers in the rule change.

Perhaps the renaissance of the tall ruckman is upon us, after the AFL refined the rule for the 2nd time in the last decade. Sorry Parker, if you want those hit outs, you're just going to have to ruck them yourself.

Other rule changes includes tightening up of the deliberate rushed behind to be in line with the deliberate out-of-bounds interpretation, as well adjusting the interpretation of the high contact rule. May as well name it the Lindsay Thomas rule, ironically, once again exasperated against the Swans after his knee-high stuns in challenge on Gary Rohan.

I can't think of any of player in the league that has influenced rule makers as much as he has, from his poor on-field antics and disgraceful conduct. Hopefully the rule change will abolish players performing the telephone coat hanger, especially when the tackle started legally. It places the onus back on the aggressor, ensuring that their conduct ensures that they're safe. The high interpretation has come nearly 360 degrees since the Blake Caracella days, with it going far too extreme in favour of abolishing all shoulder-high contact regardless how incidental, leading the comical roaming U11's scrimmage, with every player afraid to tackle on the ground with fear of giving away a free.

If there's ever recognition that something is a good thing, the club released their own 3-part review series. Different to the one this blog produced, it still used the exact same wording in the title. Here, you can read part 1, part 2 and part 3, it was a nice way for the club to sign off the year.

In other, obviously Swans related news, Dew is playing the waiting game, preparing himself for the ideal opportunity. One of the biggest criticisms in the last 20 years has been the lack of career pathway programs for aspiring coaches. When you look at other sports, such as Rugby, Tennis and Association Football (soccer), coaching career pathways exist, where aspirants progress through a badge system. Until recently, coaches didn't even have a program to help them prepare for senior coaching. While pathway systems are long off, AFLs introduction of level courses has certainly gone a long way to bridging the unnecessarily huge gap, as Dew touched on.

"Previously guys would jump into the next role available, but with this program and with things that have happened in the past guys are really making sure it's the right fit for them," Dew told AFL.com.au.

"Coaches would literally try and fit in with the job, but it's got to be two ways for it to work I think that's industry-wide, not just personally.

This is the same league that saw Danny Frawley hilariously coach the Tigers, Mark Neeld make a complete dogs breakfast at Melbourne and Peter Rhode laughed out of Footscray, as they were named at the time. More recent additions are Justin Leppitsch, James Hird, Dean Bailey, Mathew Primus, and the list goes on. If only those coaches had progressed through a pathway system, their careers would have been different, except for Neeld, he was an asshole.

I'm looking forward to an improved 2017. Another successful season on the field should see the Swans pocket another $50k windfall (heh, whatever will they do with that money?!), hopefully progress deep into the finals, and with a bit of luck, win their 5th grand final. Record membership numbers is just around the corner and exciting youngsters are training the house down. A great year could get even better if Alex Johnson returned to play football, even if only in the reserves.

Happy new year everyone, I hope you enjoyed your Christmas break and partied away the weekend! C'mon Swans!

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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 https://theswansblog.com

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