AFL grand final 2016: Sydney Swans’ success story never stops

by admin on July 14th, 2018

filed under 南京夜网

Continuing success story: the Swans after the 2016 grand final parade. Photo: Darrian TraynorYou know that an AFL club has established itself as a bona fide heavyweight of the competition when it goes into a grand final playing the role of Darth Vader.
Nanjing Night Net

That’s become Sydney’s lot this week as the Western Bulldogs attempt to put the seal on one of football’s biggest fairytales.

And while no club could have expected to command the bulk of public goodwill against a side that has won just one premiership in 92 seasons in the competition, the fact it’s the Swans playing the villain is particularly ironic.

It’s just over 10 years since Sydney became everyone’s grand final favourite as the Swans broke a 72-year premiership drought against West Coast. But that triumph proved to be far from a novelty.

Indeed, since the Swans reached their first grand final (either as South Melbourne or Sydney) for 51 years back in 1996, their consistent competitiveness argues a convincing case they’ve been the most successful club in the AFL for 20 years now.

Should Sydney, as the odds suggest, defeat the Bulldogs on Saturday, they’ll join Geelong on three flags over that time span, one behind Hawthorn’s four premierships. Brisbane have three, too, of course, but theirs in particular has proved to be a fleeting visit to football’s summit by comparison.

The Swans have achieved eight top-four finishes in those 21 seasons, again equal with the Cats and one more than Hawthorn. Their percentage of games won since 1996 is 60.2, behind only Geelong.

But no one has held a candle to Sydney simply for being a premiership contender. Saturday’s grand final is the Swans’ sixth since they were defeated by North Melbourne in the AFL’s centenary season playoff, more than any other club.

And perhaps that’s not surprising seeing how regularly they’ve been there. This finals campaign has been the 18th time in 21 seasons that the Swans have made the top eight. The next best efforts have been by Geelong and West Coast with 14 appearances. Even Hawthorn have only got there 12 times.

Anyone who even vaguely remembers Sydney as the official basket case of the AFL back in the early ’90s, a team which over the 1992 and 1993 seasons at one stage lost a staggering 26 consecutive games, would have to concede it’s been a remarkable transition.

The salad days began with the arrival of Rodney Eade as coach in 1996. From a finish of 12th with just eight wins in 1995, Eade’s version of the Swans led North Melbourne on grand final day by as much as four goals late in the second quarter.

“We had a shocking start to the season, but then we had a couple of tight wins against good sides and all of a sudden this self-belief just clicked,” he recalls. “We had a group that really liked playing for each other, and I think that’s always been evident right through to today with the Swans, they play for each other.”

The drivers of Eade’s group’s culture were the likes of Paul Kelly, Stuart Maxfield, Daryn Cresswell and even, in his own way, a reformed Tony Lockett.

The impact of the leadership group became perhaps even more profound once Eade passed the coaching baton to Paul Roos, leading to that long-awaited premiership in 2005 underwritten by the “Bloods” culture championed so fiercely by Brett Kirk, Adam Goodes, Jude Bolton, Ryan O’Keefe and co.

And a decade on from there, it’s another group rock-solid on team values and consistency of effort, the examples set not only by co-captains Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh, but the midfield bedrock of the side that is Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker.

“I think in each period, that belief in the cause has grown even stronger,” says Eade. “It’s got a really good feel as a club, with a sense of belonging, and they’ve always been strong internally.

“There’s always been a strong administration across all facets, that just builds a really good foundation for the players to come in and work hard for each other, and I think that’s been a constant for those 20 years.”

Even when Roos was in charge, the fragility of the Swans’ place in the Sydney sporting marketplace was never forgotten, dramatic falls down the ladder for the greater good of complete rebuilds not an option. “That was very evident from the hierarchy when I was there,” Eade says.

It reflected in a continuing line of what became marketable marquee players, from Lockett, to Barry Hall, to Lance Franklin now. And it’s why Eade gives current coach John Longmire a huge tick for having the courage to introduce so much youth into the senior team over the past couple of seasons.

“Sydney have tended to recruit to stay competitive, and getting all those kids in was in that sense a risk,” Eade says. “But there’s risk, too, if you get stuck playing guys who aren’t really good enough, but have got 40-50 games’ experience. They become list cloggers, because you’re not trialling the kids, so I think John has done a terrific job with that.

“I think he’s kept the basics of what ‘Roosy’ had, but introduced more youth, which has kept the place buzzing, and I think been a bit more expansive with their game. They seem a bit more adventurous now, while still keeping their good defensive attributes.”

Most of all, though, the Swans have continued simply to keep keeping on, whether on the field, in the coaching box or in the boardroom.

The trailblazer for the national competition had to fight long and hard for respectability. But as Sydney head into a third decade as an AFL benchmark, it’s fair to say the battle was ultimately won fairly convincingly.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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