Swans position themselves for 2019 post-season tilt

With bated breath, many of us wondered if the Swans would wade into the final-day trading war that was erupting across the nation. Every state had a team that went full-tilt, with Fremantle the clear winners on a final day of trading that few anticipated.

Long anticipated trades threatened to boil over into 2019 while Tim Kelly’s goal of returning to Perth was put on ice for a year, much like Hogan the year before. Fremantle finally turned into Hogan’s Heroes, removing the proverbial foot-from-mouth and coughing up the adjusted asking price.

It was hard to watch the news and read the updates knowing that the Swans trades were all but done, having acquired 300-odd more draft points, enough to secure Nick Blakey at any pick in the draft lower than five.

The Swans were ruthless for the first time in a decade, cutting Alex Johnson just after the season ended, and 50-game utility Dean Towers immediately before the trade period.

It was reported at the time that Dan Hannebery and Gary Rohan had “requested” trades in their exit interviews with the Swans, but Head of Football Tom Harley later confirmed that the players had been advised to seek another club.

In the end, they went on the cheap, the Swans more concerned with improving their draft position and dumping the players’ salary, rather than getting the best possible value for the players.

Rohan’s trade was met with warm applause, a much-maligned player in his time at the Swans, while Hannebery’s trade was met with utter disbelief and anger. It wasn’t the trade itself, it was the perceived value that aggrieved many fans.

The ABC wrote a great article on Thursday following the trade period declaring Fremantle the clear winner, having brought in so many experienced players while retaining a crucial first-round selection.

The Swans were another big winner in the trade period. They cut two fringe players and were able to use one of those picks to bring in a player that’s expected to contribute, while getting good 2019 value for an ageing star.

Most importantly, they still have the picks in this years’ draft to work with – depending when Nick Blakey is selected and how many points are required to secure him – and plenty to work with in 2019.

The last bit of business happened just before the final bell, after the capture of promising but fringe Cat Jackson Thurlow. After being touted as the possible deal-breaker for North Melbourne’s Ryan Clarke, Nic Newman found a new home at Carlton for a 2019 fourth-round selection.

As we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons, even a fourth-round selection carries some value for trading, but more often than not it’s simply a necessary tool to facilitate a trade. Newman adds much needed depth to their backline, while the Swans lose a player that always seemed destined to leave.

Looking a year-ahead into our crystal ball, it was crucial the Swans positioned themselves ahead of next years’ draft, with veterans Heath Grundy, Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh expected to hang up the boots.

It’s difficult for any team to lose nearly 900 games of experience in a single season, but for the young Swans, it might be the breaking point. With Nick Smith (211) and Dane Rampe (138) the next most experienced defenders, it’s crucial the Swans look to the market for replacements. That’s why the acquisition of Tom Langdon was so important for the Swans.

Fortunately, rising players Aliir Aliir and Lewis Melican will ease the short-term pain felt, while Jackson Thurlow can help with Callum Mills’ move into the midfield and provide more flexibility to Jake Lloyd and Zak Jones.

There’s little doubt there’s a shortage of experience in the backline, despite the exciting prospects the Swans possess. Aliir Aliir returned to the side and looked like he hadn’t missed a beat in two seasons, Callum Mills was sorely missed after injuring his foot, Lewis Melican couldn’t even hit the track without blowing up his hamstrings.

Aliir has already entrenched himself in the starting team and Callum Mills is a walk-up start, but can Melican do the same as well? He was a regular in the side in the absence of Aliir Aliir, Harry Marsh and Heath Grundy throughout 2017 and 2018, but may find himself biding his time once again.

Having cleared over $1m in cap space, freed up with Dan Hannebery, Nic Newman, Gary Rohan, Dean Towers and Kurt Tippett’s departures from the club, the Swans have another warchest to target the 2019 AFL Trade Period, and plenty of space to re-sign their growing stars. It might just be enough to entice a player like Darcy Gardiner from the Lions.

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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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