Recap of last season
The Swans were one of the youngest sides in the competition last year but played a ruthless brand of football for much of the year. Starting the year with the highlight of Buddy's 1000th goal, the Swans stayed in touch with the top 4 all season.
The Swans continued to push into finals, and stunned the Demons in the qualifying final, beating them for the second time at the MCG in 2022. A heartstopper followed at the SCG, as the Swans held off a fast-finishing Magpies outfit to win a preliminary final by a solitary point, and book a place in another grand final.
That was where the joy ended, as the Swans were outplayed, outhustled and altogether dominated by the Cats on the last Saturday in September, looking like a shell of themselves.
How they can improve
There isn't too much more you can ask of a team that finished the year in the Grand Final. This will be Lance Franklin's last year though, and the Swans are still very Buddy-centric when they go inside forward 50.
Can Logan McDonald, Joel Amartey, Hayden McLean and the rest of the forward line step up and draw the attention of the midfielders and opposing defenders, preparing for life after Buddy?
It may only be a difference in a couple of games this year, but with such a young side, the Swans should have one eye on the future as well, with the potential for a long premiership window.
IN: Will Edwards (category B rookie), Aaron Francis (trade, Essendon), Jacob Konstanty (No.20 draft pick), Jaiden Magor (Rookie Draft), Caleb Mitchell (No.40 draft pick), Cameron Owen (Rookie Draft), Cooper Vickery (No.27 draft pick)
OUT: James Bell (delisted), Josh Kennedy (retired), Sam Naismith (delisted), Barry O'Connor (delisted), Colin O'Riordan (retired), Ben Ronke (delisted), Callum Sinclair (retired), Lewis Taylor (delisted)
The Swans lost Jordan Dawson last off-season and didn't appear to miss a beat. Justin McInerney, Jake Lloyd, Errol Gulden, Ollie Florent and Nick Blakey provided plenty of movement out of the back half and transitioned the ball forward.
The Swans have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to their outside ball movers because players like Braeden Campbell and Harry Cunningham are fighting for a place in the matchday squad, and that's before the next generation like Jaiden Magor, Angus Sheldrick and Corey Warner get a look in.
The Swans, since 2021, have moved the ball with speed and precision through the middle of the field, and with the players to do it, expect that to continue this year.
One question about the Swans is their grunt through the midfield. Talismanic captain Josh Kennedy retired at the end of last year, and the midfield group, led by Luke Parker and Callum Mills were blown off the ball in the grand final last year.
The Swans were not a clearance-dominant side last year, and the question will be whether James Rowbottom, Chad Warner and co can step into the clinches and win enough clearances when needed.
If the Swans can manage that, they will become an even more threatening prospect for teams to manage, winning the ball inside and out.
Chad Warner still has another level to go to, despite being the breakout player of the competition last year, and Errol Gulden has shown signs that he will join Warner at the top of the competition.
The Swans rate Angus Sheldrick very highly internally. Sheldrick, a hulking midfielder, looked the part in his one game last year, starting the season against the Giants. As he battled injuries, he didn't break back into the side for the rest of the season, but with a full pre-season, expect that to change.
Sheldrick has already shown that he could be the future for the Swans, as a pure inside midfielder to step into the void left by Josh Kennedy, and eventually Luke Parker. A next-generation bull midfielder, Sheldrick could be the missing piece for the Swans.
The Swans will be competitive again this year, as the cream of the competition separates itself as the year wears on. With stars like Gulden, Warner, Mills and Parker, the red and white will have no trouble winning games and keeping the pressure on the top sides.
The question will be whether there is any mental scarring from their grand final shellacking, as most teams in that position struggle to come back. The Swans have youth on their side, as many pundits thought last year was a year before their peak last year.
If a grand final loss was the year before their peak, the rest of the competition should watch out, as the Bloods look to avenge that defeat, and hunt for blood in 2023.
Ladder prediction: 4th
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