Assistant coach Ben Mathews says the return of the club’s senior players from injury will be a major boost for the Sydney Swans as they look to improve and build on their 2020 season.
The squad was hampered with injury at various stages of the 2020 campaign with the likes of Lance Franklin (hamstring), Isaac Heeney (ankle) and Dane Rampe (hand) and George Hewett (back) all sidelined for extended periods
Franklin, Heeney and Hewett are all making good progress in their rehabilitation programs while Dane Rampe has made a successful return to contact training
Mathews, who was part of the club’s historic premiership triumph in 2005, believes the impending return of key experienced players will have a profound impact on the young playing group.
“They work really hard this group, they want to maximise every session and we’re trying to add some polish and implement some new things,” Mathews said.
“They want to learn, and they want to work really hard together.”
“Our leaders (Luke Parker, Dane Rampe and Josh Kennedy) really want to be out there setting the tone and it’s great to see Buddy running again, and he’s picking up his sessions and putting a block together.
“If we get those leaders out there consistently, but also supported by Callum Mills, Isaac Heeney, Jake Lloyd and those types, we think we can be a really quality team, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work.”
Since his retirement in 2008, Mathews has served as a development coach at the Gold Coast Suns for two seasons before reuniting with former mentor Paul Roos at Melbourne Football Club as an assistant coach in 2013.
While he gained valuable experience learning under Roos, Guy Mckenna (Suns) and Simon Goodwin (Melbourne) in previous years, he spoke of his excitement to work alongside the Swans Senior Coach John Longmire.
“Learning off Guy McKenna at the Gold Coast and then Paul Roos was really enlightening and opened my eyes up to what happens in the background of a football club,” he said.
“Then I was lucky enough to progress with Simon Goodwin, who was a newer coach and had different ideas again, so that learning period and understanding what makes coaches tick and how they handle players was really a great experience for me.
“Now to work under John Longmire and as part of his team and help the younger generation of Swans players come through is fantastic.
“John was assistant coach under Roosy and one of my assistant coaches when I was playing and now I’m learning from him as a coach. I can now see how he operates and how he handles his coaches and staff, and get to really crack in and help these young lads achieve what they want to achieve.”
Mathews, who came from Corowa-Rutherglen as a zone selection in the 1995 AFL Draft, played 198 games for the Swans between 1997-2008.
He will now be responsible for the development of the club’s backline with a major focus on the team’s defensive strategies in 2021.
“I’ll take charge of the backline and look after the backs on the list, but also our team defence, and how we’ll defend across the ground in various ways,” he said.
“It’s really exciting. We’ve got some new ideas and things we want to implement in a defensive sense so that will be really good and invigorating for the players.
“But this club has been built on a hard and contested style of football, and that won’t change.
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