Paul Roos had a few good reasons to implement a ‘No dickheads’ policy when he coached at the Swans. Some of the reasons’ names were Capper, Brereton, Davis and Hall.
It was clear to Roos that the infamous ‘Bloods culture’ had been discarded. On-field success had made way for gate receipts and media coverage, and these players typified the Swans’ approach from the time they moved to Sydney from South Melbourne in 1982. Although players like Davis and Hall continued their careers under Roos, the club needed a change in culture to drive on-field success, and driven by Roos, captain Brett Kirk and chairman Richard Colless, it achieved it, culminating in premierships in 2005 and 2012.
It was of great interest then, when at the end of last season, it was announced that Hawthorn’s Lance Franklin was moving to the Swans on a deal reportedly worth $10m over nine years. Firstly, because nine years was a contract term unprecedented in AFL football. And secondly, because it appeared the Swans had reneged on the ‘No dickheads’ policy.
I don’t know whether Lance Franklin is a dickhead or not; I can only go by what is reported in the media. If I had to guess, I would err on the side of dickhead. But you could probably argue that these days, the culture of the Swans is that strong, it no longer takes one player to bring it down. As a consequence, they can probably afford to have one dickhead in the team, especially one who’s as good as Franklin.
So with that box ticked, let’s go into the other aspects of Franklin’s arrival at the Swans.
The contract length is ridiculous. It is reportedly back ended, so he’ll be making more money later in his contract compared to the earlier years. He’s 27 now, so when his body fails him in five years’ time at the most (and why should he be any different to 99% of other players?), the Swans will be locked in to paying a significant chunk of their salary cap to a bloke who’ll be having beers with his mates in the stands.
It’s complete financial mismanagement. Lucky the Swans have the 9% Sydney living allowance added to their salary cap then. But don’t get me started on that …
On the field, bringing in Buddy means the Swans have had to shuffle things around a bit, and key players they’ve lost to other clubs include Shane Mumford, Jesse White, Andrejs Everitt and Jed Lamb. Add to that the retirements of Jude Bolton and Marty Mattner, and it’s clear the Swans of 2014 will be quite different to those of last year.
The Swans will have one of the most lethal forward lines in the league, with Franklin and former Adelaide Crow forward Kurt Tippet. After a delayed start to the season because of his role in salary cap offences, Tippet still managed to kick 35 goals in 2013. It’s almost scary to think of how opposition defences will contain both of them.
For all their strength up forward, it’s in the midfield where the Swans have even more stars. Dan Hannebery, Kieran Jack and Jared McVeigh filled three All-Australian spots last year, and dual Brownlow Medal winner Adam Goodes will return from an injury-disrupted season to bolster the line-up.
There’s absolutely no question the Swans have a number of great players. But I have concerns.
Their 2013 season was derailed because of injuries to a number of key players. Having sold off half the farm to pay for Buddy, they have even less depth than last year if a few players go down. Players like Everitt and Lamb especially are the types that may not have been best 22 all year, but could be relied on to come straight into the side when called upon and play their role with aplomb.
For those interested in Sydney, I encourage a reviewing of last year’s preliminary final loss against Fremantle – and not just because I’m a Dockers fan. Yes, the Dockers’ pressure was manic. But the way the Swans were flat out unable to clear the ball from their defensive 50 for a large portion of the game was a strategic issue. This showed that for all of their All-Australians, they may lack the game plan to compete with the top-pressure teams.
These sides are the ones that are better than the Swans, and, along with their self-created lack of depth, the reasons why the Swans will do well in 2014, but can’t be considered a legitimate premiership threat.
There’s a whiff coming out of Sydney and it smells a lot like it did in the ’80s and ’90s.