Vendetta Sports Media’s coverage of the 2021 AFL season continues with our previews of each of the 18 clubs. Today’s focus is the Sydney Swans.

We’ve taken a look at 15 clubs so far – go back and read each preview here. Do it. I’ll wait.

Sydney’s home guernsey

The Swans missed the finals for the second year running in 2020, remarkably the first time they’ve missed consecutive finals series since 1995, when the Swans were coming out of an incredibly dark period; though it was an era that gave birth the The Bloods culture that has served the Swans so well in the years since.

Season 2020

16th 5 wins, 12 losses, 82.6%

After years of contention, the Swans have embraced the rebuild. A raft of youngsters were (excuse the pun) blooded last season. Unfortunately, too many key players missed time with injury, leaving the green youngsters exposed.

Ben Ronke, Isaac Heeney, George Hewitt, Lewis Taylor, Jackson Thurlow, Lewis Melican, Josh Kennedy, Dane Rampe and the perma-crocked Sam Reid all missed between five and 14 games apiece. Superstar forward Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin missed the entire campaign. You take that level of talent and experience out of any team and what’s left is bound to struggle.

The Swans main problem was scoring goals. Without Franklin and Reid to give the team a more direct route to goal, Sydney just couldn’t put a defendable score on the board.

There were encouraging signs for the young Swans (the Cygnets?), however. Dylan Stephens and Justin McInerney both impressed in the back half of the campaign. Half forward Nick Blakey and key defender Tom McCartin both look like very good players in the making.

Key Ins: Tom Hickey (Eagles), Malachy Carruthers, Errol Gulden, Braeden Campbell, Logan McDonald, Marc Sheather (all draft)

Key Outs: Aliir Aliir (Power), Jackson Thurlow, Elijah Taylor, Harry Reynolds, Michael Knoll, Jack Maibaum (all released)

Tom Hickey is the solitary name player to arrive in Sydney. He’s been brought in to be the first ruck, though he can play forward in a pinch.

The Swans only saw one key member of their list depart over the off season, but it was an immense loss in key defender Aliir Aliir. The Sudanese born back man is squarely in his prime and was considered by some to be potential captaincy material. The tall, quick and impossibly strong Aliir often fought a lone hand in Sydney’s defense over the past two years. His defection, though, is somewhat offset by the emergence of McCartin and expected improved health from veteran full back Rampe. The dependable Jake Lloyd will supplement the big men. Look for rookie Braeden Campbell to slot straight on the half back line, where his speed and disposal will be utilised as an attacking weapon.

The midfield continues to be led by the indefatigable Josh Kennedy. The soon to be 33 year old is past his best but is still as consistent a performer as there is in the entire AFL. His courage and skill in extracting the hard ball is a fine example to his young teammates. Luke Parker mirrors Kennedy’s play. He’s one of the hardest men in the AFL.

Callum Mills and the lively Ollie Florent will continue to fly down the short wings of the SCG, and if the preseason is anything to go by, it looks like Isaac Heeney’s long anticipated move from the forward line may finally be happening. Long seen as the natural midfield heir to Kennedy and Parker, Heeney’s combination of size, speed, and skill will add another string to the Swans midfield bow.

The obvious downside to Heeney’s midfield adventure, is that he was often the forward target that the Swans looked for, in the absence of the injured Franklin and Reid. Franklin is still no closer to a return date. The 34 year old needs 56 goals to become only the sixth player in the 124 year history of the league to rack up 1000 career goals. Frankly, if buddy had been healthy over the past few years – he’s played only ten games in the past two seasons – he’d already be well past that mark and perhaps approaching Jason Dunstall’s 1254 goals for third in the all time list.

Reid’s injury concerns are equally concerning. He only made ten appearances himself in 2020, slotting a mere five goals – his career worst output. If he and Buddy can’t get on the park, much – perhaps too much – falls on 2019 1st round draftee Logan McDonald.

Prediction: 11th

Whilst a finals berth is probably too much, too soon for the young Swans, there is some talent coming through in Sydney. In 2020, the Swans suffered through an incredible array of injuries. Outside of the Reid/Franklin combo, the majority of those malady’s are unlikely to repeat themselves.

With their veterans back on the park, expect significant improvement out of the Swans. Just don’t expect a finals spot. Not yet, anyway.