It’s fair to say Kinnear Beatson and the Sydney Swans recruiting department delivered one of the strongest groups of talent to come out of the 2020 NAB AFL Draft when they selected Braeden Campbell, Errol Gulden, Logan McDonald and Marc Sheather.
Gulden and Campbell picked up NAB Rising Star Nominations, McDonald proved he can match it with the best up front, and Marc Sheather impressed in the Swans Reserves.
“It was no doubt one of the best outcomes, the preparation of Braeden and Errol through the QBE Sydney Swans Academy, through Jared Crouch and Chris Smith, was just terrific," Beatson said ahead of this week's AFL Draft.
"They were all ready to go, and they understood the requirements of professional footy. Marc was another Academy product, but didn’t have the same exposure to all the training sessions that Errol and Braden had because of where of he lived.
"Logan had been playing senior footy over in the WAFL, so he was used to playing against men. Marc also had a really good year and wasn’t far off debuting as a cap B rookie.
"Overall it was a terrific year from all of them, especially given most of them carried a little injury at some stage and missed a month or two of footy because of the injuries. What they delivered I would say was beyond expectations, they were fantastic," Beatson continued.
"You always hope they continue to take steps towards becoming great players for the club, but that doesn’t always occur because of a raft of reasons – attitude, injuries etc.
"Fortunately, all of these players have got great attitudes and I think they will continue to really push themselves to become better players again. You need a bit of luck with that, but we also have a really experienced and talented coaching group that will drive them so I’m really confident that they will continue to take great steps forward.”
Beatson admits it doesn’t always pan out so well, and says it is crucial to reflect on every year’s selections and identify what areas need improving.
“There are about 2-3 times every year where I’ll go back and look at drafts and look at what I got wrong or what the recruiting department got wrong. Did we make a mistake? Was the player unlucky with injury?" Beatson said.
"For example, someone like Matty Ling who was our first pick in 2017. Lingy arrived and developed a significant foot injury in his toe that he didn’t know about, we didn’t know about, and it hadn’t been discovered during the screening process of the AFL draft combine.
"Unfortunately, he never really got a shot at it. This year he had a syndesmosis injury, and sometimes players are just unlucky when they come out of contract and Matt came out of contract this year and it was because of the performance of a lot of other younger players coming through that it’s fair to say it wasn’t a good year to be coming out of contract."
"You always look at the reasons why a player doesn’t excel – did the player not have the attitude? Was the game physically too demanding for him? A lot of the players we observe are either playing school footy, or junior football, and they haven’t played against men. The challenge of coming up against seasoned AFL players can be a daunting one.
"Physically its challenging, mentally it’s challenging, and some players just lose their confidence completely. It’s almost like getting ‘the yips’ if you’re a golfer. You’re standing over a putt and all that’s going through your head is ‘I’m going to miss this.’ For a lot of these young players, that occurs to them. When they’re trying to play the game and all that’s going through their head is ‘how am I going to compete against these guys?’
"Others get injured, some get carried away. There’s a whole raft of reasons a player doesn’t excel and you try to go back and review the knowledge that you had on them. Did we miss something? Was it just a maturity thing? Did they get homesick?
"We’re always learning. I think you’re kidding yourself in any job if you’re not reviewing your work and asking yourself how you can get better.”
You can watch the draft live on AFL.com.au from 6.30pm and follow all the Swans selections on our social media channels, website and app. Sydney have the 16, 31, 39, 69, 84, 89 picks in the draft the begins tonight.
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