The reigning premiers entered 2013 on a wave of momentum after defeating Hawthorn by 10 points in the Grand Final. Another year of development for some of their talented youngsters meant that back-to-back flags was a definite chance. This was reflected in the BFGN season predictions, which had the Swans in fourth place by season’s end.
Ladder position: 4th
Win/loss record: 15/6/1(draw)
Their season kicked off with a 30 point win against cross-town rivals GWS and they followed it up with two dominant performances in rounds 2 and 3 against the Suns and the Kangaroos. Co-captain Kieren Jack had another superb season, leading from the front with the most inside 50s in the league, the second most tackles and the second most goal assists.
His main competition for the Bob Skilton Medal this year will come from fellow midfielder Dan Hannebery, who averaged 25 disposals per game and was a vital component of the majority of Sydney’s wins this year, as well as Jarrad McVeigh, who spent most of 2013 rebounding off half-back and setting up the Swans’ attacking sequences.
McVeigh was sublime in the semi-final win over Carlton with 42 disposals (including a record 20 touches in the second quarter) and it was indicative of his whole season. He led the Swans in disposals, uncontested possessions and disposal efficiency, which is amazing considering the class in their midfield.
By the halfway point of the season, Sydney were in an excellent position with eight wins, two losses and a draw against Fremantle, sitting in third spot. The biggest positive however was the impending debut of former Adelaide key forward Kurt Tippett, who had been suspended for the first 11 matches of the year after his controversial trade agreement with the Crows.
His first game was against Port Adelaide in Round 13 and although they lost, the Swans were bolstered by his marking ability and his brute strength. Despite coming into the side so late in the season, Tippett ended up kicking the most goals at the club after going on a miraculous run. He kicked 33 goals in 11 games including 17 in rounds 19-21. The extra avenue to goal allowed Mike Pyke and Jesse White to flourish, with both men playing arguably their best seasons since joining the club.
Sydney finished the regular season in fourth position and were soundly beaten by eventual premiers Hawthorn in the qualifying final. The Swans bounced back with a dominant performance against Carlton but lost Tippett and Tom Mitchell to injury. The purple haze were too much to handle in the preliminary final, with the Swans going down by 25 points to Fremantle, bringing to an end a valiant premiership defence.
The incredible story of Mike Pyke continued this year with the big Canadian playing as a vital forward target for most of the year and providing relief in the ruck for Shane Mumford. He had a very consistent season and was very unlucky to miss out on the All-Australian squad. He kicked a career-high 28 goals and was second in the league for contested marks, his combination of strength and agility becoming a real headache for opposing defenders.
A number of young players took their game to next level or made an impressive debut on the big stage including Dane Rampe, Tom Mitchell, Harry Cunningham and Brandon Jack. It showed that while the Swans remain one of the competition’s best teams, their future is still very bright.
Losing the premiership
While 2013 was still an impressive season for Sydney, they will look back on 2013 as a disappointment given they desperately wanted to retain their premiership. After a dominant performance against Adelaide in Round 11, many in the footy community wondered who could stop this Swans outfit. Ultimately, they went down by 25 points against an irresistible Fremantle in a match where the margin flattered Sydney.
Key signings and departures
It was the recruitment that shocked the footy world. While many expected Lance Franklin to leave Hawthorn via free agency, it was widely assumed that he would be heading to Greater Western Sydney. However, Sydney swooped in front of their cross-town rivals and signed the competition’s premier forward. Buddy Franklin’s arrival will make a scary forward line even scarier and John Longmire must be getting more excited by the day at the prospects of the 2014 season.
Signing such a huge player with his reported salary was bound to have further implications for the playing group. For Jesse White, 2013 was a welcome return to the kind of form that saw him earn a Rising Star nomination back in 2009. He was relied on as a second tall and played 15 games, which equalled his total from the previous two years combined.
However, the recruitment of Franklin resulted in White departing to Collingwood, where he would be given greater opportunity without Franklin and Tippett in front of him. Shane Mumford also departed, the premiership ruckman going to rivals GWS after four seasons with the Swans.