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Mix of youth, experience thriving

Preseason Update - Tadhg Kennelly New Assistant Coach Tadhg Kennelly updates Swans TV on how preseason is shaping up.
The older players are putting in the hard yards and the young boys have the energy and the older boys are feeding off it.
Tadhg Kennelly

Star youngster Isaac Heeney is turning heads, evergreen veteran Heath Grundy is turning back the clock and the Sydney Swans’ blend of youth and experience is blossoming.

That was the snapshot of pre-season training delivered by newly appointed defence coach Tadhg Kennelly at Bat and Ball Oval in Moore Park on Monday.

Kennelly this year overlooked the NEAFL side alongside Jeremy Laidler and is now just a matter of weeks into his post as defence coach, but the 2005 premiership backman says Heeney and Grundy have already grabbed his attention.

“It’s very early in the pre-season so the senior players aren’t doing a whole lot,” Kennelly told SwansTV.

“But Isaac Heeney is in really good shape and Heath Grundy has come back in really good shape too – the old man of the group.

“Today’s session consisted of conditioning, some intervals and then a skills block of about 50 minutes with running in between. We started with a two-kilometre time trial this morning, which is a big session for the boys. They were a bit fried by the end of it, which is good to see. We’ve got to push their limits.”

A Swans pre-season session offers a glimpse of a number of players in the twilight of their careers and a host of footballers blooming into stars of tomorrow.

Grundy is toiling through his 15th pre-season as an AFL footballer and Heeney is grinding through his fifth.

Triple centurion Jarrad McVeigh has hit ‘go’ on his 17th pre-season, while the seven recently recruited draftees are being eased into their first.

Defenders McVeigh (319 games), Grundy (255), Nick Smith (211) and Dane Rampe (138) have stacked up 923 AFL matches between them and Kennelly says the wealth of experience is making his job easy.

“This group’s extremely experienced. You look at Jarrad McVeigh and Heath Grundy, Nick Smith and Dane Rampe. Those boys coach themselves,” Kennelly said.

“It’s a bit different to being a development coach where you’re really hammering home the message. You take a bit of a back seat when you’re looking after a defensive set-up like ours. It’s about challenging them and making it interesting and fun for a group that is so experienced.”

Kennelly says Sydney’s emerging wave of talented youngsters is complementing the older brigade to a tee.

Ben Ronke, Tom McCartin, Ryley Stoddart, Colin O’Riordan and Darcy Cameron all made their senior debuts in 2018 and two Swans claimed AFL Rising Star nominations, with Ronke collecting the honour in Round 8 and Oliver Florent in Round 11.

“The older boys and the younger fellas are really biting at the bit to hook in hard and that’s something that’s really reinvigorating for the group,” Kennelly said.

“The older players are putting in the hard yards and the young boys have the energy and the older boys are feeding off it.

“Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker trained really well today because they’re feeding off that energy from the younger guys.

“There’s still a long way to go to Round 1 but things are shaping up well at this time of the year.”