Sydney is preparing to spend up to eight weeks on the road, with the team departing for Queensland on Thursday to beat state border closures with NSW.
The Swans have taken a travel party of 90 people, made up of players, football department and other support staff. Few families have joined the group, with the team to spend the next week in Brisbane before two weeks in a Perth hub.
“We’ve got a very young squad and only a handful of players have families, and they’re staying at home at this point in time,” Sydney chief executive Tom Harley told reporters moments before the team boarded buses to take them to the airport.
“We’ve got some staff who are bringing some families. But it’s a relatively small travel party in comparison to some of the clubs, which is more reflective of the age demographic of the team.”
Harley said that injured star forward Lance Franklin and Swans co-captain Josh Kennedy will be travelling with the group and continuing their rehabilitation programs in the interstate hubs.
“Lance is certainly coming. His training has progressed really well,” Harley said.
“He’s running, he’s joining in light skills, and knowing Lance he’ll be knocking on the door pretty soon. But we obviously need to take a cautionary approach."
Harley used Kennedy, who was nearby and saying goodbye to his children at the time, as an example to highlight the sacrifices that players and staff are making to ensure the AFL season continues despite the many difficulties that have come with COVID-19.
“We should never lose sight of the personal sacrifices that players and staff are making at the moment. Josh is an example of that for us,” the former Geelong and dual premiership captain said.
“Everyone who is a fan of the game, like I am, or involved in the industry – we absolutely should take our hats off to the players and staff for keeping the show on the road.”
Harley admitted that the uncertainty around the team’s schedule, and whether or when the Swans will again play matches in Sydney, was challenging but added that he was comfortable with the club’s approach so far.
“We’d love to come home. But we need to be realistic and have a high level of pragmatism among our travelling party about what happens post-Perth,” he said.
“When we’re preparing the players and the families, we’re talking about an eight-week period. If it ends up being a three-and-a-half-week period, we’ll adjust to that as well.”
The Swans will start their stint in Queensland with a match against St Kilda at the Gabba on Saturday, in what will be the fifth annual Pride Game but the first to be played in Brisbane.
“We’ll wear our rainbow socks, we’ve promoted the LGBTQI message, our players were involved in a really strong campaign during the week, and it was one opportunity when you get to work with another club to be strong around messaging,” Harley said about how the Swans and Saints are taking the game – and message – to fresh fields and fans.
“It is important we value everyone, certainly in our footy club and certainly in our supporter base, and it’ll add a bit of colour on the weekend.”
Harley added that the Pride Game “has become significant and a key pillar of our diversity action plan”. The Swans announced on Thursday that the club has begun work on a new diversity action plan and will be engaging community partners to be part of that process.