DESPITE the final standings showing a 16th place finish, Sydney was a side which produced plenty of promise throughout 2020. Much of that came down to young talent rising the Swans’ ranks and with an eventual draft haul boasting two top five picks, that factor is set to be compounded heading into next season. Pick three slid down to pick four and the Swans were again on the board with pick five, quickly matching their first of two bids in the National Draft. One more matched bid and a couple of rookies later, and Sydney has a handful of fresh faces entering the elite system, but with a sense of great familiarity given three are Academy graduates.
Having known what was available with its two leading Academy products, Sydney came into the draft looking to target key position options with its first pick. Many analysts linked the selection with West Australian defender Denver Grainger-Barras, but the Swans rated Logan McDonald higher so when he slipped past Adelaide and North Melbourne, they pounced on their man.
McDonald is another West Australian with a full season of senior football under his belt, proving one of the big improvers this year after a stellar campaign up forward. The 196cm forward is hard to deny in front of goal, able to find the big sticks from a bunch of ranges while also bringing contested marking to the fore. He can play deep, but also gains good separation up the ground with his elite endurance base. It is something which has seen him draw comparisons to St Kilda great, Nick Riewoldt.
The Swans were always prepared to match a top 10 bid for Academy talent, Braeden Campbell, but were perhaps a touch peeved when Hawthorn put them back on the clock with pick five. It proved a straightforward decision to match, even if it meant Sydney would then sweat on where Errol Gulden‘s range would land. Ideally for the Swans, it came after the first round and in a position where they could comfortably match once again.
Campbell is a 181cm midfielder with great versatility; not only with his inside-outside balance, but also in that he can also play up forward or off half-back. His speed and penetrating boot make for two damaging weapons and plenty of upside. Gulden is a touch smaller at 175cm, but just as versatile and finds the ball at will no matter which level he plays at. He is crafty with ball in hand, runs all day, and may even be in line for a Round 1 debut despite his light frame. With those two bids matched, the Swans were satisfied with their National Draft intake.
That left a little more action for the Rookie Draft and the Swans took on another interstate prospect in South Australian, Malachy Carruthers. The Sturt Under 18s standout is another terrific runner who opens up the play across half-back or on the wing with his expansive use by foot. Another Academy graduate in Marc Sheather also made the cut at no cost, bringing athleticism, a readymade frame, and developable footballing traits to the squad. He can play on each line and even above his 185cm height.
Featured Image: Swans Academy graduates Braeden Campbell (left) and Errol Gulden | Credit: Jenny Evans/Getty Images via AFL Photos