If coach Nick Davis had been allowed, he would have named his entire team of 22 among the best players after the QBE Sydney Swans Academy under-16s last week beat the GWS Academy under-16s.
In the first of their three-match Academy Series, the young Swans hit the ground running and did everything Davis had asked of them to post a 12.13 (85) to 10.6 (66) victory in Canberra.
“We made it a focus to play with intensity and physicality. The boys did that, and it wasn’t two or three doing it; everyone was on board,’’ Davis said.
“The thing that made me proud of them was they bought into the team stuff. As a coach you train it and talk it, but it gives you gratification when they actually go out and do it because they believe what you’re saying.’’
After the match the players sang the club song with gusto.
“You could see how excited they were to sing the song, and you could tell from talking to a few of them it was one of the best wins they’ve been involved in, because they came together and stuck to our team principles,’’ Davis said.
As for the team principles, Davis wouldn’t divulge them – echoes of the Swans’ famous Bloods mantra of 2005 when Davis played in the premiership.
“We can’t tell you what they are,’’ Davis said.
“They’re just things each boy can do to help the team, and if we have a majority doing that and then they bring their own special talents, that’s the key.’’
While proud of the entire group, Davis said the Swans’ standout players were Byron Middleton from the Moore Park Tigers, St Ives’ players’ Luke Giacometti, Matt McKenzie and Liam Puncher, Jordan Endemann from the Maroubra Saints, Anthony Eussen, Matthew Riley from North Ryde Dockers and Felix Rogers from Willoughby.
Last year the Swans beat the Giants 2-1 in the series and Davis is hoping for back-to-back victories.
The second game of the series won't be played until May 25 in Blacktown, and the third and deciding game is scheduled for a week after on June 1.
While on the one hand the series is a battle for supremacy between the NSW academies, it also acts a trial for the NSW-ACT under-16 Rams.
After the series, the NSW-ACT AFL selectors will pick a combined team from the Swans and Giants academies to play in the National Under-16 Championships in July.
Davis says the Swans’ under-16s are a talented group this year, with most benefiting from being in the Academy since they were 11 years old.