Coming off a premiership season was always going to be tough, but the Sydney Swans were as impressive as ever during the 2013 home and away season, finishing fourth on the ladder with 15 wins and a draw.
It was a tough finals series for the side however, as the injury-depleted Swans went down to Hawthorn in the Qualifying Final, before going on to defeat Carlton and then be knocked out in a Preliminary Final against Fremantle.
At the season’s end Jude Bolton hung up the boots after a career spanning 325 games, while during the off season the Swans acquired the biggest name in the game, with Lance Franklin joining Sydney on a nine-year deal.
With Franklin leading the charge up forward in his first season in the red and white, the Swans finished 2014 on top of the ladder with 17 wins and a healthy percentage of 168. A win over Fremantle in the Qualifying Final set up a clash with North Melbourne in the Preliminary Final – a match the Swans went on to win by 71 points.
A Grand Final rematch of the 2012 contest against Hawthorn was on the cards in what turned out to be a disappointing day for Sydney, as the Swans lost by 63 points.
Season 2015 was another consistent one for the Swans as they finished inside the top four once again. But injuries and illness struck at the wrong time, with Lance Franklin, Kieren Jack and Luke Parker all on the sidelines during the finals campaign. Sydney’s season ended with a Semi Final loss to North Melbourne, while champion Adam Goodes announced his retirement closing the curtains on one of the most illustrious careers in the history of the game.
Season 2016 was underpinned by the energy of youth and the spirit of some of the Swans’ most experienced men. Seven players made their debut in the red and white, including Tom Papley, George Hewett, Aliir Aliir, Harry Marsh, Jack Hiscox, Jordan Foote and Callum Mills – with Mills going on to win the AFL Rising Star Award. Meanwhile a record five Swans were named in the AFL’s All Australian side including Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery, Lance Franklin, Luke Parker and Dane Rampe. The combination of youth and experience propelled Sydney to the AFL’s biggest stage once again and this time it was the Western Bulldogs that the Swans met in the AFL Grand Final.
Unfortunately for Swans fans, the fairy-tale ending didn’t come their way in 2016. In a hard-fought contest the Western Bulldogs prevailed to win their first flag since 1954. The game marked a farewell to veteran defender Ted Richards who retired after 261 games, while big-hearted midfielder Ben McGlynn hung up the boots the following week after a 171-game career.
The Swans grabbed a slice of AFL history when they became the first club to make the finals after starting the season with six consecutive losses. They won 14 of their next 16 games to finish sixth on the home-and-away ladder and capped a remarkable comeback when they won their first final. Josh Kennedy, elevated to the captaincy, led a young side that showed remarkable fight and resilience to qualify for the finals for the eighth year in a row in a season in which Jarrad McVeigh became the fourth player to reach 300 games for the Swans. Luke Parker won his second Bob Skilton Medal, Kennedy and Lance Franklin finished 4th-5th in the Brownlow Medal and Franklin won All-Australian honours after collecting his fourth Coleman Medal. He also became just the 12th player in League history to kick 800 goals before climbing to 10th on the all-time list. Swans director Sam Mostyn became just the second woman awarded Life Membership after being the first woman appointed to the AFL Commission in 2005.
Lance Franklin was rewarded for an extraordinary overall contribution to the AFL when he became just the second Swans player after 2006-07 choice Paul Kelly to be named captain of the All-Australian side. This honour came after he collected his eighth All-Australian blazer. On field, after a rollercoaster campaign the Swans beat three top eight sides in a stirring Round 20-21-22 charge to qualify for the finals for the ninth year in a row and Jake Lloyd won his first Bob Skilton Medal. Chief Executive Andrew Ireland was awarded Life Membership with club psychologist Graeme Bercht, Athletic Performance Manager Rob Spurrs, retiring Chief Financial Officer and AFL media chief and strategist Tony Peek.
John Longmire enjoyed a season of highs and lows as he surpassed Paul Roos to become the Swans’ longest-serving coach but missed the finals for the first time in his ninth year at the helm. But as sad as it was a tough year finished with a wonderful and enduring image of Jarrad McVeigh, Heath Grundy, Kieren Jack and Nick Smith chaired from the SCG after a stirring final round win over StKilda. The retiring foursome took with them a collective 1048 AFL games, 89 finals, 13 grand finals, four premierships and 30 top 10 finishes in the Bob Skilton Medal. An extraordinary collective contribution. In a year of elevation from within at the SCG, Tom Harley succeeded nine-year Chief Executive Andrew Ireland and Luke Parker and Dane Rampe were promoted to join Josh Kennedy as captain. Rampe, too, received life membership with Director of Coaching and Head of Development John Blakey and match day statisticians David Pearlman and Brad Spillane. Lance Franklin was awarded AFL Life Membership.