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Young stars drive Swans' 2019 AFL hopes

A mixture of proven veterans and exciting players 24 and under are giving Sydney coach John Longmire cause for optimism heading into the 2019 AFL season.

Young stars drive Swans' 2019 AFL hopes

A mixture of proven veterans and exciting players 24 and under are giving Sydney coach John Longmire cause for optimism heading into the 2019 AFL season.

Swans coach JOHN LONGMIRE looks on during the Sydney Swans AFL pre-season training session at Lakeside Oval in Sydney, Australia.
Swans coach JOHN LONGMIRE looks on during the Sydney Swans AFL pre-season training session at Lakeside Oval in Sydney, Australia. Picture:Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

The increasing influence of Sydney's youngsters has coach John Longmire believing the Swans can continue to defy the laws of AFL gravity, as they seek to extend the competition's longest finals steak.

That finals run stands at nine successive seasons, the last eight under Longmire, who this year is set to surpass the club coaching record of 202 games held by his predecessor Paul Roos.


For all their admirable consistency, Sydney have finished in the bottom half of the eight for three of the past four seasons.

They lost seven of 12 SCG games last year but had an outstanding 9-2 away record..

While Sydney's list includes half a dozen veterans aged 30 or more, all with more than 200 games of experience, Longmire stressed a significant portion of his core players were much younger.

"We've got 70 per cent of our list in that 24 and under age group now and half of our senior team is in that bracket; they are playing key roles for us," Longmire told AAP.

"'We think that's a good thing and we've still got a core group of quality senior players as well that are still hungry and still drive high standards, and great leaders around our footy club.

'We look forward to it (the season) because of those things and we don't listen to the outside noise too much."

Dan Hannebery has left and long-time colleagues Kieren Jack and Heath Grundy will face plenty of competition from younger teammates.

Isaac Heeney and Callum Mills are just 22 and 21 respectively and could move to the next level this year, with both earmarked for more midfield minutes.

Longmire is adamant there is enough depth in his midfield stocks to take some of the ball-winning load off Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker who along with defender Dane Rampe will give Sydney three co-captains.

He expects George Hewett, Heeney and Mills to help, plus a cluster of hybrid inside-outside mids including new recruit Ryan Clarke and Oliver Florent.

One concern Longmire is addressing is the uncharacteristic amount of adverse inside 50 counts against his side last year, when his backline was often forced to soak up sustained pressure.

"Last year was our first year in inside 50 differential in the negative for eight years," Longmire said.

"It's not the the way we like to play but we were under pressure for a few different reasons last year.

"We didn't exit as quickly and and efficiently out of our defence a lot.

'It's a whole group thing and we looked at that in the off season."

The return from injury of promising young key defender Lewis Melican and the acquisition of Jackson Thurlow will provide more backline depth.

With the recruitment of Dan Menzel and the return of Sam Reid, spearhead Lance Franklin will have more senior support up forward than last year.

First-round draft pick Nick Blakey will add to that contingent and ruckman Sam Naismith's anticipated return from an ACL inujry a few weeks into the season will also give Longmire the option of pushing Callum Sinclair forward more.

SYDNEY

Coach: John Longmire

Captains: Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Dane Rampe

Last five years: 2-5-2-5-6

Premierships: 5 (1909, 1918, 1933, 2005, 2012).

Key five: Lance Franklin, Isaac Heeney, Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy, Dane Rampe.

One to watch: Nick Blakey. The 195cm first-round draft pick has been training in the forward line alongside Lance Franklin and is expected to make a round-one debut. The son of former North Melbourne and Fitzroy great John Blakey is another graduate of the Swans' academy.

Ins: Nick Blakey (UNSW-Sydney Academy), Ryan Clarke (North Melbourne), Zac Foot (Dandenong Stingrays), Justin McInerney (Northern Knights), Harry Reynolds (Sandringham Dragons), James Rowbottom (Oakleigh Chargers), Jackson Thurlow (Geelong), Durak Tucker (Peel Thunder), Sam Wicks (Category B rookie).

Outs: Jake Brown (delisted), Jordan Foote (delisted), Dan Hannebery (St Kilda), Alex Johnson (delisted), Harry Marsh (delisted), Nic Newman (Carlton), Dan Robinson (delisted), Gary Rohan (Geelong), Angus Styles (delisted), Kurt Tippett (retired), Dean Towers (delisted).

Best line-up:

B: Nick Smith, Dane Rampe, Jake Lloyd

HB; Jarrad McVeigh, Lewis Melican, Aliir Aliir

C: Callum Mills, Josh Kennedy, Oliver Florent

HF: Tom Papley, Lance Franklin, Will Hayward

F: Ben Ronke, Dan Menzel, Nick Blakey

F: Sam Naismith, Luke Parker, Isaac Heeney

I: George Hewett, Callum Sinclair, Zak Jones, Ryan Clarke

Predicted finish: 9th

AAP


AAP




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