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On This Day: Youngest Swans player

Eighty years ago today, Harold Traynor grabbed a special place in Sydney Swans history. At 16 years 223 days, the 173cm 73kg stripling became the youngest player in Swans history.

Listed at #548 on the club’s all-time playing list, Traynor debuted in South Melbourne’s 750th AFL game against Collingwood at Victoria Park on 15 July 1939.

Through 80 years and 874 more players, Traynor is still the youngest Swan of all-time. And barring a drastic change in AFL regulations, given the minimum draft age is now 18, he always will be.

Fittingly, a Swans legend who himself had debuted at 18 and coached the club at 25 gave Traynor his chance at the top level.

Herbie Matthews had replaced Roy Cazaly at the helm in 1939, taking on the dual role as captain-coach, and at Round 13, with his side on a three-game losing streak and sitting 11th on the 12-team ladder with a 3-9 win/loss record, he picked Traynor in the senior side.

Playing his second game was 23-year-old Ted Whitfield, who was famously reported in the 1945 grand final for attempting to strike the field umpire and later suspended for 12 months. And playing his 50th game was Wilbur Harris, who had played in the 1934 grand final.

It wasn’t a great day for the club as they were beaten 8.13 (61) to 19.11 (125) by Collingwood, the 1936 premiers who in 1939 completed a hat-trick of grand final losses.

Ron Todd, a century goal-kicker for Collingwood in 1938-39, kicked five as did Cliff McCrae, playing the first of three games for the Pies after 58 games at Footscray. His only other two games in black and white were Round 14 the following week and the grand final.

It didn’t get any better for South either. They ended with the wooden-spoon at 3-15.

Traynor, wearing jumper #7, played the last six games of 1939 and two games in 1940, but it was not until his 12th game in Round 4, 1941, when he’d switched to jumper #32, that he celebrated his first win. He kicked an equal career-best two goals in a 27-point win over Fitzroy at Lake Oval.

Along the way Traynor played in Matthews’ 150th game for South, Jack Graham’s 100th game and Rex Ritchie’s 50th game

He was in the Swans side when the club welcomed 29 players to the all-time list, including 100-gamer Vic Castle and his 1945 grand final teammate Jack Dempsey, and Des Martin, who in 1942 switched to Richmond mid-season and played in the ’42 grand final.

He played in the only South Melbourne game of Billy Deans, who later played 151 games at Melbourne, including the Demons’ 1946 grand final loss and their 1948 grand final draw and win.

Traynor played in the first South game of Lindsay White, who transferred from Geelong in 1942 when the Cats went into temporary recess due to World War II. White went on to kick 111 goals in 25 games in red and white.

Also playing his first game for South that day was Tommy Lahiff, later to forge a legendary broadcast partnership with Harry Beitzel over more than 30 years. Lahiff was originally an Essendon player but quit the League to take over as captain-coach of Port Melbourne in the VFA. Only when the VFA was put on hold during the war did he returning to the then VFL with South. Later to play at Hawthorn, Lahiff kicked a career-best five goals in his first game for South and White kicked seven.

Traynor made his finals debut in the 1942 semi-final win over Footscray at Princes Park in which Ron Bywater played the first of his 58 games. And he played his last game in a preliminary final loss to eventual premiers Essendon in 1942.

Traynor took the title of the youngest Swan from Ernie McDougall, who had held this honour for 37 years from his debut at 16 years 322 days in 1902.

Prior to that it had been an honour held from day one by Jack Deas, the youngest player in the first Swans side in 1897 at 21 years 148 days. Deas was displaced by Horrie Lyons (21 years 166 days) in Round 6 and Jack Fleming (20 years 318 days) in Round 10.

Charlie Colgin (19 years 314 days) was the first teenager to play for the Swans in Round 1, 1898 but held the record for just 10 weeks before passing it on to Arch McNair (17 years 298 days) in Round 11.

In Round 16, 1900 Alf Dosing (17 years 295 days) shaved three days off the youngest Swan mark, and in Round 15, 1902 McDougall lowered it further.

McDougall, later to work as a dentist in London and enlist in the Australian Army Medical Corp in World War I in 1916, played only four games – all before his 18th birthday.

McDougall and Traynor were the first two of seven 16-year-olds to play for South Melbourne. They were followed by Noel Rohleder (one game) in 1950, Marshall Younger (41 games) in 1956, Bob Kingston (91 games) and Peter Brain (1 game) in 1961, and Robert Hay (14 games) in 1971.

A total of 38 players have debuted for the Swans at 17, including Bob Skilton, and five from post-1982 era in Sydney: 1996 grand final team member and current director Brad Seymour, plus Mark Kinnear, Anthony Rocca, Darren Gasper and Shannon Grant. Details are:

ALL-TIME YOUNGEST SWANS

Player

Age on Debut

Debut

Games

Years

Days

Harold Traynor

16

223

1939

37

Ernie McDougall

16

322

1902

4

Noel Rohleder

16

251

1950

1

Peter Brain

16

259

1961

1

Robert Hay

16

285

1971

14

Marshall Younger

16

329

1956

41

Bob Kingston

16

337

1961

91

YOUNGEST SWANS SINCE 1982

Player

Years

Days

Debut

Games

Mark Kinnear

17

256

1997

6

Anthony Rocca

17

277

1995

22

Darren Gasper

17

325

1994

21

Brad Seymour

17

328

1994

133

Shannon Grant

17

348

1995

58

Mark Bayes

18

22

1985

246

Damien Lang

18

24

1994

5

Justin Crawford

18

27

1995

17

Michael O'Loughlin

18

69

1995

303

Craig Nettlebeck

18

71

1990

45

Clinton King

18

91

1996

9

Adam Heuskes

18

98

1994

49

Grant Bartholomeusz

18

99

1986

4

Wade Chapman

18

102

1994

51

Leo Barry

18

107

1995

237

Harry Cunningham

18

109

2012

112*

Ben Doolan

18

115

1991

25

Tom McCartin

18

132

2018

27*

Gareth John

18

137

1990

21

Dan Hannebery

18

144

2009

208

Will Hayward

18

156

2017

51*

Jason Saddington

18

157

1998

142

Luke Parker

18

201

2011

188*

Gavin McMahon

18

212

1993

5

James Rowbottom

18

213

2019

5*

Craig Potter

18

213

1984

42

Barry Mitchell

18

221

1984

170

Riley Stoddart

18

223

2018

2*

Robert Neill

18

230

1992

21

Ben Mathews

18

232

1997

198

Greg Stafford

18

234

1993

130

Justin McInerney

18

236

2019

1*

Sam Reid

18

244

2010

136*

Oliver Florent

18

246

2017

47*

Trevor Mustey

18

249

1982

2

Peter Maloni

18

269

1983

1

Chris O'Dwyer

18

282

1990

8

James Meiklejohn

18

301

2003

6

Adam Schneider

18

321

2003

98

Isaac Heeney

18

334

2015

96*

Gary Rohan

18

336

2010

106

Patrick Veszpremi

18

337

2008

11

Shayne Smith

18

337

1994

4

Daniel McPherson

18

349

1994

111

Jarrad McVeigh

18

355

2004

324*

Callum Mills

18

359

2016

70*

* denotes current player.