Footy season is back! We were without our beloved sport for what felt like an eternity but it’s finally here. After a disappointing Grand Final loss, the Swans list looks as good as ever. Let's go through the best 22 as we look forward to Saturday afternoon at the SCG, where the Swans take on the Power.
B: Heath Grundy, Dane Rampe, Nick Smith
We’ll start with the backmen. Through fantastic draft selections and recruitment, the Swans have one of the best backlines in the AFL.
Western Bulldogs reject Dane Rampe has the ability to dismount teams on both ends of the ground after his 2016 season saw him ranked 2nd for Rebound 50’s. He was 2nd to none other than Heath Shaw. I love watching this bloke play footy. Last season earned Rampe the honour of All-Australian and more importantly for the Swans, he stepped into a leadership role of one of three Vice-Captains.
Heath Grundy has missed 3 games since 2009 and you can count him in to play his key defender role for the entirety of 2017. Grundy has been given hard tasks on some of the best forwards in the league and always does his job as great veterans do. He did cop a small niggle throughout the last match of the JLT but I expect him to be back in the lineup come Saturday afternoon.
Nick Smith is another stalwart of the Swans Defense. His presence on small forwards is incredibly effective and can be expected to shut down some of the best throughout the season.
HB: Aliir Aliir, Callum Mills, Zak Jones
Aliir Aliir had a huge impact on the Swans at the back half of last season. He played twice during the season, but it was after the byes in Round 16 that he turned in a fantastic effort off halfback. The guns keep coming out of nowhere for the Swans and Aliir is no different. They will continue to use him as a weapon out of Defense in the opening round.
Callum Mills just won a lazy Rising Star award in his first season of AFL. Wasn’t I just mentioning these Swans guns that come out of nowhere? He played all 22 games and had a truly unbelievable rookie season throughout the backline. The young star will swing into the midfield at stages, but I expect to see his calm style in the backline for a majority of the season.
Jones is coming off an ankle injury that kept him out of AFL action for 6 weeks, until he returned for the two last finals. The first (preliminary) final saw Jones have 15 rebound 50’s and gave us a glimpse of what the 22-year old can accomplish. His ankle injury hasn’t looked to set him back at all throughout the JLT and still goes at the ball with a quick and tough approach.
C: Luke Parker, Kieren Jack, Jarrad McVeigh
The Sydney midfield is purely and unfairly spectacular. Well, not unfair, but Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy, and Dan Hannebery are indescribable when mixed together.
Luke Parker will look to build off his Midfield/Forward role in 2017 and could be in Brownlow contention like a few others in this squad. Parker had a small knee issue over the summer but still looked fantastic throughout the JLT. I expect him to get back on the same horse he was on in 2016.
Kieren Jack slips into the lower class of the Swans midfielders, but would still be one of the best players at any other club in the competition, which gives you an idea as to where the Swans are at right now. His role may be challenged by the return of Isaac Heeney throughout the season.
McVeigh has been one of the best 22 to obtain an injury that will keep him out for the first few rounds. He did fall off last year quite severely, and having been injured we could see him lose his role to some of the dynamite youth on this Sydney list.
HF: Isaac Heeney, Lance Franklin, Gary Rohan
Home and Away TV star Isaac Heeney is a huge part of the Swans future. He is arguably the best youngster in the AFL at this time. Unfortunately, he has been suffering from Glandular Fever, which from personal experience could be a 3-week injury or a season long injury. Let's hope he is dominating through the forward line and midfield sooner rather than later.
BUDDY BRILLIANT! The ever-entertaining Lance Franklin made his return to AFL after he missed the 2015 finals series with personal issues. He has had surgery on a shoulder during the offseason but that won’t change the unstoppable force Buddy is. He played every game last season for just the 2nd time in his Career and the first time in 8 years. Let's hope buddy can kick as many as he did last year, as he is one of the most exciting players to watch in footy.
Niiiiice Gary (Cricket reference, I don’t even watch cricket but I’m trying to fit in.) There is nothing nice about Gary’s AFL outlook at this present time, as he is sidelined with a back injury for at least the first month of the season. Rohan can be a pest to deal with when he is on, but whether he can stay on the turf is the problem. I’ve got him in the best 22 based on the assumption that he plays 15+ games and Sydney can utilize him as a high-pressure, high-speed forward.
F: George Hewett, Sam Reid, Tom Papley
Hewett made his debut throughout the forward line in 2016 and played 24 games over the season. He was a great midfielder throughout juniors, but with such a strong midfield it may be hard for him to break into it. The departure of Tom Mitchell to the Hawks potentially opens the door for him, but for now he can be handily used as a lead-up forward.
Reid didn’t play an AFL game last season, but has shown his fitness throughout two JLT games. If he is healthy he can step into the Swans best 22.
Papley won’t be ready for selection for around the first month of football as he rests on the long-term injury list. He can be a livewire up forward and plays the small forward role fantastically. He’s only 20 years old, so he will have a few years to build on a solid rookie campaign.
R: Kurt Tippett, Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery
Ruckman Kurt Tippett will slot in as the #1 Ruck for the Swans but will also spend quite a large chunk of time up forward. He has established himself as an important part of the Swans and has the potential to kick close to a bag on a nightly basis if Naismith or Sinclair takes the #1 Ruck role.
Josh Kennedy has aged like a fine wine. The new captain of the Swans has some of the best ball-winning skills throughout the AFL and will be a smoky for the Brownlow like it seems he is every year. JPK fits like a glove in this well-oiled Sydney midfield and is ready to lead the Swans to glory.
Dan Hannebery. What can I say? In my opinion, he is the best player on a very good squad. He has dropped the beers throughout the offseason in the hope to improve his fitness and overall game. That is scary. He ranked 1st in the AFL in effective disposals which literally makes him second to none with his ball use. Expect another huge year from him.
INT: Callum Sinclair, Oliver Florent, Jake Lloyd, Sam Naismith
Half-forward youngster Oliver Florent has shown flashes throughout the JLT and will be named for his debut round 1. It looks certain that the Swans will have another superstar rookie coming through. He is only 18 years of age but will be in their best 22.
Jake Lloyd is the last of the best 22. This doesn’t mean that he is the worst of their 22. Lloyd had a breakout 2016 campaign in which he played every game of footy. He fits in seamlessly to just about any position on the Swans other than the Ruck. He should play throughout the backline and midfield through 2017.
On paper, this team is a very hard one to choose a best 22 for. There is so much talent on this list and it could be extended out to a best 30.