SWAN DISTRICTS will be looking to climb off the bottom of the West Australian Football League (WAFL) League ladder in 2020, having managed just four wins last time out to miss finals for a second consecutive season. The Reserves fared only slightly better with five victories to land in seventh in 2019, as the Colts lifted the club with their finals qualification at 8-8 to finish fifth.
While the Black Ducks are once again well stocked at the junior grade, they will be made to cover some key, experienced losses as they search for improvement at senior level. The retirement of former skipper David Ellard will hurt, as will the loss of enigmatic 2008 AFL Rising Star, Rhys Palmer, who also ended his League career.
Jesse Glass-McCasker‘s next move remains in limbo given he was set to feature in the recently cancelled VFL season, while long-time Swan Jacob Coniglio has sought opportunities elsewhere in the competition with Perth. Albert Dean is the other player to complete a move within the WAFL, joining East Perth, while Freddie Clutterbuck will look to stamp his claim in country football this year.
On the flip-side, former Northern Blues pair Frank Anderson and Sam Fisher will be thanking their lucky stars having made the move West at an ideal time, poised to provide solid midfield and forward cover for the Swans this season. The pair have been standouts in the Victorian competition, and earned invites to last year’s state draft combine.
Former East Perth pair Tarir Bayok and Nelson Waite will also line up in the Black and White throughout 2020, alongside former Claremont Tiger, Jacob Sideris and Diggers Rest recruit, Deven Costigan. A third Victorian on the list, Costigan’s transition to state league football in WA will be made easier having made the move with Anderson and Fisher on two-year deals.
The squad will be led by fan favourite co-captains Tony Notte and Matt Riggio, with former Collingwood key forward Corey Cault named vice-captain in his fourth year at the club. Much of the goalkicking onus may again fall on Leigh Kohlmann and Brayden Noble, who provide good height and diversity having led the club’s scoring charts over the last two seasons. Reigning best and fairest George Hampson should be in for another big campaign, while young tall Nathan Ireland will hope to continue his development at senior level.
Speaking of, leading AFL draft prospects Denver Grainger-Barras and Zane Trew could well crack League berths in their top-age campaigns, as two of the Swans’ five State Academy Hub members. Grainger-Barras is a rangy key defender with great athleticism and versatility, while Trew is a hard-nosed midfield extractor and terrific exponent of the handball. Both look like pushing for first round contention.
Ty Sears is another promising top-ager who injects searing pace off half-back or on the outside, while Rhett Bazzo and Max Chipper are bottom-age guns who played a role in WA’s Under 16 National Championships campaign last year.
If the promising youth is anything to go by, the only way is up for Swan Districts in 2020. The heavy losses in experience will be difficult to manage, but some terrific top-up talent from around the competition and nation should hold the Black Ducks in decent stead.
Preseason form has not been entirely promising though; with the League side going down to Perth by eight points, and the Colts losing both of their scratch matches, but the Reserves coming up trumps against Perth to the tune of 23 points. Swans fans will be hoping for plenty more of the same, and a quick return to form. West Perth awaits in Round 1 of the 2020 WAFL season.
2020 League Coach: Adam Pickering
2020 League Captains: Tony Notte, Matt Riggio, Corey Gault (VC)
2020 Reserves Coach: David McKay
2020 Colts Coach: Simon Bergin
Ins: Frank Anderson (Northern Blues), Sam Fisher (Northern Blues), Tarir Bayok (East Perth), Jacob Sideris (Claremont), Nelson Waite (East Perth), Deven Costigan (Diggers Rest).
Outs: Jacob Coniglio (Perth), Albert Dean (East Perth), Jesse Glass-McCasker (VFL), David Ellard (Retired), Rhys Palmer (Retired), Riley Garcia (Western Bulldogs), Jake Pasini (Port Adelaide), Freddie Clutterbuck.
2020 NAB AFL State-Based Academy Players: Rhett Bazzo, Max Chipper, Denver Grainger-Barras, Ty Sears, Zane Trew