The Biggest Losers? Or Winners?
Graphic thanks to those at Champion Data
Despite making the top 4 and reaching the semi-finals in the 2015 season, the Sydney Swans are set to lose the most experience, on average, without replacing it of any team during the current off-season, according to Champion Data.
The graphic above (provided by Champion Data) shows that the loss of Adam Goodes (372 games), Rhyce Shaw (237) Lewis Jetta (127) and Mike Pyke (110) will leave the Swans lacking 846 games of experience; a huge number no matter how you put it. It will become larger in the coming days when Craig Bird (137), a local product from NSW, completes his expected move to Essendon in a complicated three way trade.
On paper, it looks easy to replace four players compared to the 12 players Geelong have lost this off-season. But you just have to look at the calibre of player the Swans are losing to understand the struggles they will have in 2016.
Goodes is a dual Brownlow medallist and one of the AFL’s greatest players. Shaw is capable of tearing a team apart with his rebound and pace. Jetta can kick multiple goals while destroying teams on the outside. And Pyke has shown his ability to be a force in the air, while being a handful up forward. Bird, as well, has shown that he can tag some of the best players in the AFL and shut them out completely.
Losing hundreds of games of experience, dozens of finals game experience and multiple premierships would be a significant roadblock for any team. The imposed trade ban limits the dubbed ‘Trade Kings’ from working their magic and doing what they do best; taking underused players at other clubs and making them stars.
Callum Sinclair has been brought in, via direct swap for Jetta, but he has only played 29 games, including a Grand Final where he was subbed out after a forgettable day. And at 26 years old, there are doubts whether he can still improve. But he does fill an immediate need for the Swans as a ruckman.
Michael Talia is on his way to Sydney as well as a delisted free agent, but again, he only has played 30 games and has an AFL investigation hanging over his head. However, he is only 22, and with Ted Richards and Heath Grundy getting older, he will get games in 2016.
The Swans are also set to gain young Academy midfield star Callum Mills but there are doubts about his durability, having only played 3 games this season due to multiple injuries. But he is rated, by many, to be the best player in this upcoming draft. Josh Dunkley too could be joining the Swans under the Father/Son rule, but the inside midfielder is open to the idea of entering the draft without being attached to the Swans.
For the Swans to ensure the loss of experience does not hurt them in 2016, they have to look at what they already have to replace them.
With Goodes leaving, that opens up Sam Reid to play a more floating key forward role. He is athletic enough and has the endurance to cover the ground like Goodes has in the past few years. After promising so much, 2016 may be the year that Reid delivers.
Shaw leaving opens up the door for Zak Jones to have a consistent run in the senior team. A high draft pick in 2013, Jones has shown enough to suggest that he will be a mainstay of Sydney’s defence for years to come. And Shaw leaving allows him to show more than glimpses of his potential.
The expected trade of Lewis Jetta will allow surprise finals star Dean Towers to play in a more familiar midfield role, where he can use his exceptional leap and speed to the Swans’ advantage on the outside of the contest. Towers showed in the finals series just gone by that he can play on the big stage. But can he now deliver those performances on a weekly basis?
The unexpected retirement of Mike Pyke will allow two similar players, in Sinclair and Kurt Tippett, to become one of the best ruck combinations in the AFL. Sinclair impressed many with his ruckwork and athleticism this season, while Tippett finally showed his talent in the ruck and backed it up with a huge end to the season, pleasing many Swans fans.
The Swans have faced this situation before. They’ve already been written off by many for the 2016 season. They have the backs against the wall again. And this is when they play their best. Write them off at your peril.