There are 27 reasons to suggest that during the Sydney Swans’ 40-year journey in the Harbour City the club’s recruiting has been at least the equal of any club in the AFL. If not better.
Of these, 18 are imports who played 100 games in red and white during the expansion era. And nine are imports who went close to 100 games and had a profound influence on the club.
From the top, there are eight 150-gamers – Josh Kennedy (277), Ted Richards (228), Rod Carter (217), Stuart Maxfield (200), Barry Round (193), Craig Bolton (170), Barry Hall (162) and Lance Franklin (153).
Another nine are 100-gamers – Rhyce Shaw (143), Bernard Toohey (129), Ben McGlynn (127), Marty Mattner (124), Graham Teasdale (121), Darren Jolly (118), Paul Williams (117), Greg Williams (107) and Francis Jackson (100).
The 10 ‘extras’ are Tony Lockett (98), Wayne Schwass (98), Nick Davis (97), Neil Cordy (96), David Bolton (95), Jason Ball (90), Andrew Schauble (88), Gerard Healy (81), Craig Holden (80) and Shane Mumford (79).
It is a list littered with premiership players, Brownlow Medallists, All-Australians and Bob Skilton Medallists. And more. And it would take some beating in a club v club “import-off”.
Interestingly, though, among 138 100-game players in Swans history only 18 began their AFL career elsewhere. There are the aforementioned 17, from Kennedy down to Jackson on the games list, and Joe Prince.
Wingman Prince was a 103-game Swan from 1910-1918, who played in six finals series including the losing grand finals of 1910 and 1912 before missing selection for the 1918 premiership side. But he was hardly an ‘import’ – he joined South Melbourne after one game at St Kilda in each of 1908 and 1909.
Indeed, recruiting is primarily a modern phenomenon, as the Swans have demonstrated so well since the relocation from Lake Oval to the SCG.
Curiously, a host of star Swans ‘imports’ have enjoyed major career milestones in Round 21 during the club’s time in the Harbour City so they share headline status for the “Remember When – Round 21” flashback this week. Major Round 21 milestones have been:
300 AFL Games – Barry Round (1983)
250 AFL Games – Wayne Schwass (2000)
200 AFL Games – Rod Carter (1985), Barry Hall (2006), Lance Franklin (2014)
150 AFL Games – Andrew Schauble (2003), Barry Hall (2004)
100 AFL Games –Andrew Schauble (2000), Ted Richards (2008)
100 Swans Games – Francis Jackson (1983), Paul Williams (2005)
Jared Crouch also played his 200th game in Round 21, 2007 and Isaac Heeney his 100th in Round 21 2019, but this is about the import milestones, which includes the following highlights:
1983 – A Round triple century in Round 21
Barry Round was introduced to the concept of 300 AFL games early in his career – he debuted for Footscray as the great Ted Whitten Sr became the League’s fourth 300th gamer after Gordon Coventry (1937), Jack Dyer (1949) and Dick Reynolds (1950).
And after John Nicholls and Kevin Murray followed in 1973 he played alongside John Rantall as he posted his 300th game in 1978, having returned to South in 1976 after a three-year stint at North Melbourne and played in Round’s first game with South.
For the historically-minded, subsequent members of the AFL’s exclusive 300 Club were Kevin Bartlett (1979), Len Thompson and Sam Newman (1980), Francis Bourke and Don Scott (1981), Barry Breen, Ian Nankervis and Gary Dempsey (1982).
Bruce Doull became the 16th member in Round 19, 1983, but it wasn’t personal for Round again until the following week when his great mate Bernie Quinlan played his 300th for Fitzroy in Round 20.
The pair had been teammates at Footscray and shared the 1981 Brownlow Medal, but they missed by seven days the chance to play their 300th games on the same weekend as Round posted his triple century the following week. It was Round 21, 1983.
It was South against Richmond at the SCG. With both teams out of finals contention it was all about the twin Sydney milestones of Round’s 300th and Francis Jackson’s 100th and ultimately last game in red and white.
It was the first year the Swans players actually lived in Sydney, having commuted from their original Melbourne base in 1982 when the club first played under the name ‘Sydney’. As club captain the ever-likeable Round had quickly become a huge local favourite.
Sadly, he didn’t get the celebration to match the occasion. Richmond led 9.13 to 1.5 at halftime and despite a late rally led by Round, with 25 possessions and 20 hit-outs, the visitors won 15.24 (114) to 10.13 (73).
Round, who had played as the back-up ruckman to Dempsey and a key position player at either end of the ground during his days at Footscray, was ‘sold off’ by the Dogs when ex-Geelong champion Billy Goggin took over as coach ahead of the 1976 season.
He trained with Geelong but didn’t like the idea of driving four times a week to the “Cattery” and ended up much closer to home at Lake Oval for a magnificent career in red and white.
Named in the ruck in the Swans Team of the Century and club captain from 1980-84, he won the Bob Skilton Medal in 1979 and ’81, and on top of his 1981 Brownlow Medal win he was 4th in 1979 and equal 6th in 1982.
1985 – The Boy from Banyule
Banyule, a local Government area in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, was home to a raft of famous people – actors Cate Blanchett and Ben Mendelsohn, winter Olympic gold medallist Alisa Camplin, Australian soccer great Mark Bresciano and politician Jenny Macklin. And adopted Swans favorite Rod Carter.
Picked up by the club ahead of the 1980 season after he’d quit Fitzroy mid-1979 to play with Port Melbourne in the VFA, he quickly became a fixture in the Swans defence.
His 200th AFL game came as 11th-placed Sydney faced 10th-placed Melbourne at the SCG in the penultimate round of 1985. And he did get a win to mark the occasion when the Swans won 24.21 (165) to 14.13 (97).
Carter, the no frills, no fuss fullback, shared the moment with a teammate who could not have been more different in his on-field persona when high-flying full forward Warwick Capper kicked a then career-best seven goals in his 29th game.
Carter later became just the 11th Swans player and the first import to reach 200 games in red and white in 1989.
2000 – A one-point thriller
AFL football was first played at what is now Marvel Stadium in 2000. The Swans played the second game under the roof in Round 1 and the 45th in Round 21, when they grabbed a heart-stopping one-point win over Richmond.
It was the 10th-placed Swans (9-11) against the 7th-placed Tigers (9-11) on a Saturday afternoon, and a double celebration for the club, with Wayne Schwass playing his 250th AFL game and Andrew Schauble his 100th.
And after leading at each change by 16 points, seven points and two points they got home on the back of a piece of Michael O’Loughlin magic.
With scores level six minutes from time, Sydney’s Robbie AhMat won a free kick for a brilliant chase-down tackle on Richmond’s Leon Cameron. He missed a 30m set shot from straight in front but the visitors led by a point.
AhMat quickly made amends 60 seconds later when he won a crucial possession at centre half forward and fed Jason Saddington by hand. He chipped the ball 35m towards O’Loughlin in a one-on-one contest with Cameron.
The veteran defender, in his 190th game, spoiled well but O’Loughlin was quick to recover. He grabbed the loose ball, and after a lightning fast balk and a step, he slotted it on his left from the edge of the goalsquare. Sydney by seven.
Richmond got the next goal when a Mark Chaffey speculator from 60m bounced through, just eluding a diving hand of Troy Luff, but saving marks from Andrew Dunkley and Greg Stafford in the closing moments sealed the Swans win 12.12 (84) to 12.11 (83).
Schauble did a sterling job in defence to pick up three Brownlow Medal votes, while Schwass topped the possession count with 31, but it was all for nothing. Both teams missed the finals.
2005 – An Important step
Season 2005 will forever be a favorite with Swans fans. It was the year they broke a 72-year premiership drought at the end of a 26-match journey that included a critical game in Round 21.
Paul Williams, in his fifth season in Sydney after 10 years at Collingwood, marked his 100th game in red and white as the fourth-placed Swans hosted fifth-placed North Melbourne at the SCG.
West Coast (68 premiership points) and Adelaide (60) were safe in the top two but it was a dog-fight between St Kilda (52), Sydney (52) and North (48) for the all-important double-chance.
The home side blew the Roos away with a 7.2 to 1.1 first quarter and coincidentally won by the same 37-point margin at 15.11 (101) to 9.10 (64).
Nick Davis, who three weeks later would kick an astonishing four goals in the final quarter of the famous three-point semi-final win over Geelong, kicked a career-best five. Ben Matthews (27) and Brett Kirk (26) topped the possession count while the Brownlow Medal votes went to Tadhg Kennelly, Adam Goodes and Jude Bolton.
It was a win that helped secure the double-chance, and when the Swans lost their first final to West Coast in Perth by four points it took on a monumental importance. Because without the double chance Davis’ extraordinary final quarter heroics in the semi-final would not have happened.
2006 – A Brownlow clincher
Round 21, 2006 was against Brisbane at the Olympic Stadium and it was Barry Hall’s 200th AFL game. He kicked two goals in an all-the-way win by 57 points.
But it was more a game about Adam Goodes. Playing his 182nd game and enjoying his 100th win, Goodes was a standout with 24 possessions and a goal to earn three critical Brownlow Medal votes.
As the medal count several weeks later revealed, Goodes had gone into Round 21 with 20 votes. He was fourth on the leaderboard and one of four who could win. Ahead of him were the Western Bulldogs’ Scott West (22) and West Coast pair Daniel Kerr (22) and Chris Judd (21).
Goodes was the only one of the top four to poll in Round 21. His three votes against the Lions jumped him to the top of the leaderboard before three more votes against Carlton in Round 22 saw him claim his second Brownlow – and his first outright after he shared the medal with Collingwood’s Nathan Buckley and Adelaide’s Mark Riccuito in 2003.
2014 – A three-vote 200 for ‘Bud’
Lance Franklin, in his first season in Sydney in 2014, celebrated his 200th AFL game in Round 21 against St Kilda at the SCG.
Sharing top spot on the ladder with Hawthorn and Geelong, the Swans faced a battling Saints side that was at the bottom. And, with the man of the moment in spectacular form, they marked the occasion with a 71-point win.
Franklin kicked three goals in the first quarter and four in the third on his way to nine goals and three Brownlow Medal votes. He kicked 9.4, had five contested marks and took a club record 13 marks inside 50, adding two to the mark Barry Hall set in 2008.
Jarrad McVeigh (28 possessions, one goal) and Luke Parker (33 possessions, one goal) took the minor medal votes.