September spectators for the first time in a decade, and just the fourth time in 24 years, meant that the 2019 season provided a novel, if unwanted, experience for John Longmire and his Swans. More valuable however, would for the coach would be the increased opportunities the season afforded him to blood youngsters which began to pay dividends late in the year.
What went wrong?
For the first time since flying north to the Harbour City, Buddy Franklin struggled to get on the park each week. While it has been no secret that modified programs have been required to ensure his regular appearances in recent seasons, 2019 was the first time he spent considerable time on the sidelines. After averaging 21.6 games a season for the five years prior, in 2019 Buddy managed just 10 in 2019 and his absence was keenly felt.
Perhaps not surprising, given the absence of their premier spearhead, the Swans struggled to find avenues to goal with only five sides scoring less the Sydnesiders in 2019. Despite playing less than half the season, Franklin was still the club’s third highest goal scorer with Tom Papley the only Swan to kick more than 30 goals.
What went right?
With the number of games injected into the clubs younger brigade, the worst season results wise since the early 1990’s, 2019 might well prove the dawn of a bright new era for the Swans. The likes of Nick Blakey, Tom McCartin and Jordan Dawson all showed enough with the opportunities afforded them this year to suggest they could be the building blocks around which a contender could be constructed.
The Round 23 Pride Game against the Saints provided a triumphant end to a difficult season. With an opportunity to celebrate the 300 game milestone of Buddy Franklin and send off Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh the Swans faithful flocked to the SCG. On an emotional afternoon, Franklin kicked four while McVeigh and Jack kicked final quarter goals to the delight of the packed house.
Round 12: Sydney 18. 8 (116) def West Coast 10. 11 (71)
Despite being down to just one man on the bench, the Swans stunned the defending premiers at the SCG in their best performance of the season. Buddy Franklin and Tom Papley were the stars on the day with five goals each as the team celebrated Dane Rampe’s 150th game in style.
We don’t always plump for the winner of the club’s best and fairest in this category but it is was impossible to ignore the season of 2019 Bob Skilton Medallist Dane Rampe. The 29-year-old Swan Co-Captain played all but one game in 2019 and averaged 20.1 possessions and 6.7 rebound 50’s in an outstanding season down back.
While there were some positives that the Swans will take away from the season, for a team accustomed to September action, a bottom-four finish is simply unacceptable.