Thrilling matches, tense finals, huge marks and a series of unforgettable storylines made the 2019 AFL season one to remember.
The evenness of the AFL’s top bracket of sides was shown by the fact just one win separated Geelong, who finished first, and the fifth-placed West Coast, while Greater Western Sydney went from sixth to reach the grand final after a stunning September run.
It was Richmond who would ultimately win the premiership, their second in three years, Damien Hardwick’s side finishing the season full of momentum.
A new campaign brings fresh hope for all 18 clubs, though, and our 2019 season reviews take a look at what went right, what went wrong, each side’s best players and how every club can improve.
The next team in the spotlight is Sydney Swans.
- Ladder position: 15th
- Win-loss ratio: 8-14
- Percentage: 97.7
Sydney Swans AFL 2019 Season Performance Review
Sydney’s run of nine successive finals appearances was broken, with two terrible spells of form to blame. John Longmire’s men won just one of their first seven matches and then, after a mid-season revival, dropped six games in a row from Round 16 to Round 21. The Swans finished with two wins on the trot but improvement is definitely needed in 2020 for a side used to competing in the business end of the season. Star forward Lance Franklin played just 10 matches in 2019, which did not help matters, and a high-profile off-season chase of Essendon’s Joe Daniher failed, with the Swans unable to agree on a deal with the Bombers in the trade period.
Sydney’s best is still more than enough, as they showed with a 45-point win over semi-finalists West Coast in Round 12. Both Franklin and small forward Tom Papley kicked five goals each in the comfortable victory, while Jake Lloyd amassed 42 disposals. Defender Dane Rampe and midfielders Luke Parker and Isaac Heeney also won plenty of the football against the reigning premiers. It was the sort of performance that suggested the Swans were back on track, but they soon fell in a heap.
Six losses at their SCG base was a very poor result for the Swans, who have made the venue somewhat of a fortress in recent years. A Round 6 loss to rivals Greater Western Sydney was perhaps the toughest SCG defeat to take, given the Swans trailed by just five points at half time. GWS went on to win the game by 41 points, kicking 11 goals to five after the break. Badly missing the absent Franklin in the forward line, no Swan managed more than two goals, while most of the Giants’ big names helped themselves to big numbers. The loss was Sydney’s second biggest of the season.
The best and fairest
Defender Dane Rampe cruised to victory in the Bob Skilton Medal, winning Sydney’s best and fairest with 581 votes. Rampe averaged 20 disposals and six marks per game in 2019, with his rebound from defence a highlight of his play. George Hewett was next best with 461 votes, while Luke Parker was just behind in third. Tom Papley and Callum Mills were fourth and fifth respectively on a night Sydney farewelled retiring quartet Jarrad McVeigh, Keiren Jack, Heath Grundy and Nick Smith.
Parker is a proven vote-getter at the Brownlow Medal and it was no different in 2019, the tough midfielder winning 16 votes to finish in a tie for 16th. He was the only Swan to finish in double figures, with Josh Kennedy next best with nine. Heeney won six votes but Rampe did not poll a single vote, while Hewett got just two.
There were no Swans in the final 22-man team but Rampe was recognised for his excellent year with selection in the provisional 40-man squad.
The goal kickers
Papley, who looked like he might be headed to Carlton in the trade period but ended up staying put, enjoyed an excellent season in front of goal, kicking 37.28 and leading the way for the Swans. Sam Reid also played every game and kicked 28.13 in a forward line that was left without Franklin too often. That the ex-Hawk kicked 27 goals in 10 games said it all about his impact. Heeney chipped in with 26 goals, too.
The reason to be hopeful
A full season for Franklin in 2020 will surely see the Swans surge up the ladder. The quality of Sydney’s midfield means a repeat of a 15th-placed finish seems unlikely, and the likes of Heeney, Mills, and Nick Blakey are stars on the rise. Jordan Dawson looks a bright prospect, too, and another potential key player – Dylan Stephens – joined Sydney with pick five in the 2019 AFL draft. Sydney needs to improve their SCG form and Longmire will make sure that this is a priority.