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From the Outer: Our future is looking extremely bright

Buddy's inspiring finish - Rd 12, 2019 A hilarious reaction is caught as the Swans coaches ride Lance Franklin's final shot through

The Sydney Swans Football Club is looking good! So good, in fact, that my musings before last weekend’s game could well have told a slightly different tale. To tell you the truth, two days before our win against West Coast, I had in fact penned my story for this Bye Round. Saved it on my desktop, and two hours later it had gone! My computer was hacked and I lost everything, even the hard drive back-up! 

I now have to start again, to express my thoughts and emotions about my beloved club, at the half way mark of the season.

This is a year that is a little unfamiliar to most of us Swans fans. We’re used to being right up there towards the top of the table, looking forward to yet another finals campaign in September. Our four wins, eight losses, may not compare to previous years’ successes after Round 12, but the gradual improvement, especially these past three games – all against top teams - brings a joyous smile to my face.

In my Footy Almanac articles this year I have talked about our footy team and transition. Transition from one of the greats of the past two decades to an up and coming force of the future; about blooding the young guys and gelling with the experienced; and about us, as supporters, sticking with the boys and encouraging them at every single opportunity. And the fact that we must be patient and bide our time, no matter how long it takes to regain our ascendancy.

I feel an overwhelming thanks when I think of the past two decades. Having lived through the early South days, since my first game as a toddler in 1948, and to compare those years of heartbreak to the successes since 1996, words cannot really describe what gratification my team has given me. Most footy lovers would surely be jealous of the pure pleasure we have had bestowed upon us. We have been blessed!

Sustained success, however, can make it difficult to accept that, at some stage, change will occur. No team can maintain that type of achievement year after year, week after week, especially with so many personnel changes and injuries. We have maintained our winning ways for 20 odd years without crashing to the bottom of the pack. What other teams can boast such an outstanding success rate?

But change is now happening.

My thoughts at the beginning of the season revolved around those changes. One of my very favourites, Dan Hannebery, had gone; Gary Rohan had gone; the inspirational Alex Johnson had gone; and Towers, Foote, Newman, Robinson, Marsh and Brown had all played their last game for the Bloods.

On the brighter side, the new young boys from the Draft were ready to prove themselves; Dan Menzel would hopefully overcome his injury issues; Jackson Thurlow and Ryan Clarke would prove that Kinear Beetson is still the best in the business; Sam Reid would, surely, shine; Tom McCartin would build on his promise in 2018; Callum Mills, Sam Naismith and Lewis Melican would be fighting fit again, and those young guns Ben Ronke, Ollie Forent, Will Hayward and Ryley Stoddart would show us just how good they are. I was also hoping Colin O’Riordan, James Rose and Jordan Dawson would get more senior game time. And let’s not forget Nick Blakey – what a phenomenal player he promises to be. Our experienced players would bind us together, and boasting the best forward in the business – the one and only Buddy – maybe we could prove to all outside the club just how wrong their doom and gloom predictions were!

We were not to know so early in the season just how many of our stars would sustain injuries along the way, some long-term, and that on occasions we would be fielding the youngest team over a weekend.  With up to almost half our regular team missing at different times of the year, and with so many young guns being blooded, is it any wonder our win loss ratio is slightly down on previous years?

We must also take into account that on more than one occasion more than half our players had played less than 50 games (some as few as under 10), and 18 of them fewer than 100 matches, and that footy household names such as Buddy Franklin, Jarrad McVeigh, Joey Kennedy, Harry Cunningham, Nick Smith, Zac Jones , Heath Grundy, Sam Naismith, Kieren Jack and Dan Menzel were all out injured.

And when I think about the young guys this year, our future is looking extremely bright. Think about Jordan Dawson and how he’s come on in leaps and bounds. Think about how well Aliir Aliir is playing, and Georgie Hewett, and Ryan Clarke and Jackson Thurlow’s improvement from week to week, and our backline overall: Ramps, Lloydy, O’Riordan, Melican, Mills, McVeigh – all standing up and doing what our backline has done for years now – been one of the best in the business. And then I think of our forwards. What else can be said about these young kids, showing maturity way beyond their years, especially when Buddy was injured. Tommy McCartin, Nick Blakey, Ollie Florent, and throw in Tom Papley, Will Hayward, Isaac Heeney, Sam Reid, Robbie Fox and our most recent young Blood, James Rowbottom, and we have a team showing no fear, plenty of footy nous and endless enthusiasm. To say nothing of the young guys in the NEAFL. And how about Callum Sinclair? What would we have done without him?

We must also keep in mind that our losses have been minimal – certainly not blow-outs - and our current position on the ladder is not a true reflection of our talent. We are laden with it, and if we can continue in the same vein as in recent weeks, who knows just what we can achieve by the end of August?

Which brings me to our most recent game, against the Eagles. This deserves a special mention. It was an almost perfect performance by the Swans. I can’t really remember the last time we played with such intensity, such precision, such accuracy and such purpose – for an entire four quarters. And considering three of our players were injured and took no part in the second half, made it even more remarkable. A win for the ages! It was sensational, and one for the history books.

As we approach the second half of the season, Richard Colless’ words of wisdom ring loudly in my ears. He wrote them in 2016, in his Introduction to my book My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans.

“True believers are eternal optimists who can always see the proverbial ray of sunshine in the middle of a hailstorm. Without the true believers our club and the game as a whole would have little meaning.”

Not only do they apply to us, the fans, but to the players and the club as a whole. Without a true belief in each other, in our abilities and what we can accomplish together, there will never be a truly successful outcome.

How apt they are today, as our beloved club transitions from one of the greats of the past two decades to its rightful position at the top of the table, once again.

Go the mighty Bloods, I love you, win or lose! And that is coming from one helluva true believer!

Jan Courtin, a passionate lifelong Swans fan who attended her first game in 1948, moved to Sydney to be closer to her team in 1998. In 2016 her book “My Lifelong Love Affair with the Swans” was launched by the Swans, and she was chosen "Female Fan of the Year" by the AFL Fans Association. Her website: http://www.myswansloveaffair.com  You can read more great Sydney Swans fan reviews at footyalmanac.com.au