A host of Hot Topics surround the Sydney Swans’ clash with the Northern Territory Thunder at TIO Stadium in Darwin on Saturday.

NEAFL limelight awaiting Academy stars 

A recent spate of injuries could open the door for a number of QBE Sydney Swans Academy stars to be handed invaluable opportunities in the NEAFL. Jarrad McVeigh (broken collarbone), Dan Hannebery (calf), Sam Reid (Achilles) and Lewis Melican (hamstring) have all succumbed to long-term injuries in recent weeks, which is set to have implications further down the line. A host of Academy members have fired in the NEAFL this season, including draft-bound duo Bailey Stewart and Sam Wicks. Stewart took out the Round 8 NEAFL Rising Star Award after producing an eye-catching display against the Brisbane Lions. A number of Academy youngsters could be set to follow in his impressive ways.

Surging winning run

The Swans cruised to a 46-point victory over the Giants in Wollongong last Saturday to pencil in an eighth win in a row. They have proved too strong for AFL clubs in their three most recent outings in notching wins over Gold Coast, Brisbane and GWS by an average of 47 points per game. Although the Swans opened their season with a run of four losses, they haven’t dropped a game since and will take an 8-4 record into the clash with the Thunder. They edged from third to second on the ladder in the win over GWS last Saturday and could find themselves in first on the ladder if results go their way in the Northern Territory.

A trip to the Top End

The Swans will venture to the Top End for the first time since Round 5, 2017, when Sydney bagged six final-term goals en route to a 24-point victory. The trip north will follow visits to the Gold Coast and Brisbane, while Sydney have also jumped between the SCG, Spotless Stadium, Blacktown International Sports Park and Wollongong’s North Dalton Park. Academy head coach Jared Crouch recently told of the invaluable experience his troops enjoyed in the Top End earlier this season, with the Under-18 boys travelling to Alice Springs to face the Northern Territory in the 2018 Academy Series. They took in the wondrous sights of Simpsons Gap and got a taste of football on the road, with sleeping in motels, eating different food and being away from friends and family all part of the learning experience. Saturday’s trip to the Northern Territory will present the Swans’ NEAFL side with a massive opportunity to grow not just on the field but off.