Main content
Proudly Sydney

Academy: Talent rises to the top

When the Swans reserves play the Canberra Demons this Saturday for a place in the NEAFL Grand Final, half the team will be talented teenagers from the QBE Sydney Swans Academy.

A record number of non-AFL listed players, dubbed ‘top-ups’, have turned out for the Swans reserves this season, with 39 current or former Academy members taking the field over the course of the winter.

On average, there have been at least 10 Academy members in the reserves team every week during the 2018 season. On several occasions there were as many as 16 top-ups when the Swans senior list was depleted due to injuries.

Academy general manager, Chris Smith, says playing for the reserves in the NEAFL is a fantastic opportunity for the Academy’s Top End (16-19 years) squad.

“We have seen a huge number of our Top End boys play NEAFL this year, which shows we have a very strong development pathway for our older Academy members,’’ Smith said.

“It helps our senior club, but just as importantly it gives our Academy boys invaluable experience playing senior football with, and against, AFL-listed players.’’

Players from the Academy’s U19 squad, including Sam Wicks, Bailey Stewart, Josh Stern, Mitch Rogers, Joey Reinhard, Dylan Smith, Michael Carroll and Jeremy Shumack have each played a significant role for the reserves and been immersed in the Swans system.

Stewart has played 16 games so far this season, while Rogers has played 15.

Twelve Academy players, including several who are still in the U17 age group, have been named for the Swans reserves in the NEAFL preliminary final against Canberra Demons at Blacktown International Sportspark on Saturday at 11.30am.

They are: Wicks, Stewart, Stern, Reinhard, Rogers, Connor Flanagan, Cooper Kilpatrick, Kyle McKellar, Kyle Veerhuis, Hamish Ellem, Ky McGrath and Carroll.

However the Academy’s contribution to the NEAFL doesn’t stop with the Swans. There will be several former Swans Academy members playing for Canberra, including Angus Baker, Harrison Carr and Jarrod Osborne, who all graduated from the Academy’s Top End U19 program in 2017.

Baker and Osborne have had impressive seasons and were both nominated for the NEAFL Rising Star Award this year. Carr has also been a standout and kicked three goals in Canberra’s Elimination Final win against the University of Sydney last week.

Overall, seven current or former Swans Academy members were nominated for the NEAFL Rising Star Award in 2018.

Others to receive nominations were Nathan Cooper, Jake Bartholomaeus and Callum McFadden who are now playing with Sydney Uni, Will Gowers who has moved to Queensland to play for Aspley, and Bailey Stewart for his round 8 game with the Swans reserves.

All seven boys were Swans Academy members from the Under 11’s to the age of 18.

“When we established the Academy in 2011, one of our long-term aims was to help grow the national talent pool,’’ Smith said.

“It’s never been just about providing talent for the AFL, it’s about contributing to the strength of the game at all levels across NSW and nationally.

“We’re rapt that seven boys who have been through the Academy have been nominated for the NEAFL Rising Star Award this year – it proves the long-term benefits of our program.’’

Canberra’s Osborne, who was part of the Academy’s inaugural intake in 2011, says it played a big part in his development.

 “The (Swans) Academy certainly set up the foundations for me,” Osborne said after he was nominated for the Rising Star Award.

The Academy’s influence is also evident at the highest level of Sydney local football, the Premier Division of AFL Sydney, where dozens of current and former Academy members play, helping to lift the standard of the senior men’s competition.

Academy members Dylan Smith, Christian Loone and Josh Rayner will line up for the North Shore Bombers in the AFL Sydney  preliminary final against Sydney Uni on Saturday afternoon, also at Blacktown, with the winner to play UNSW Eastern Suburbs in the Grand Final on Saturday September 15.

And this Sunday, the AFL Sydney U19 Division One Grand Final between UNSW Eastern Suburbs and North Shore will feature as many as 20 Swans Academy players.

The full list of current and former Academy members who have played for the Swans reserves in 2018 is:

Jordan Adams, Jackson Barling, Isaac Bartholomaeus, Jackson Blair, Nick Blakey, Zac Cameron, Michael Carroll, Noah Casilini, Darcy Cordell, Lachlan Dent, Jacob Dol, Hamish Ellem, Nick Eynaud, Connor Flanagan, Matthew Kannan, Cooper Kilpatrick, Christian Loone, Harry Maguire, Tom Meacham, Kyle McKellar, Harrison Parker, Luke Parks, Josh Rayner, Joey Reinhard, Max Ries, Mitchell Rogers, Jeremy Shumack, Jacob Sincock, Luke Skrivanic, Dylan Smith, Dominic Soffe, Josh Stern, Bailey Stewart, Lachlan Swaney, Sam Thorne, Reed van Huisstede, Kyle Veerhuis, Aiden Watling, Sam Wicks.