Forty teenage boys gathered in the Swans inner sanctum, the room where the senior players get their final message from coach John Longmire on game days.

This wasn't game day for these Under 16 players, but a momentous one all the same - the first day of their elevation to the senior ranks of the QBE Swans Academy.

This time last year they were part of a 100-plus Under 15 squad. Now, after a tough selection process, just 48 players sat in the coaches' room in the basement of the Swans' SCG headquarters.

And the message from Academy Head Chris Smith befit the occasion. "Fifty four boys were unlucky and are no longer in the Academy. You've made it through, and you deserve to be here,'' he told them.

But Smith emphasised expectations are much higher now that they're in the Academy's elite Top End Under 16 program.

"The little things matter. You determine where you sit in the pecking order. You determine your own standards, whether that's training or recovery. You boys will steer how far you go.''

Three years ago, Braeden Campbell, Errol Gulden and Marc Sheather were part of the Under 16 Academy squad. At the end of 2020 they all lived their dream when they were drafted from the Academy to the Swans senior list.

"We always had complete trust that those boys were doing everything we asked of them,'' Smith said.

"I'd drive past Centennial Park and there would be Errol doing the extra work. We had trust that they not only said they wanted to make it as AFL players - but they were doing everything to make it.''

Khy Gibbs preparing for a big 2021 season

It was a message that hit home for Khy Gibbs, a talented midfielder from the southern Sydney suburb of Cronulla who has made it through to the U16 program.

"It made me realise it's going to be a lot more intense than last year. It's getting serious now, we really have to step up,'' Khy said.

Khy has only been playing junior AFL since he was 12 and has been in the Academy for the past three seasons. He was talent spotted by Nick Davis, the Academy's Youth Development Coach and Swans 2005 premiership player.

Khy's father Bryce was a successful rugby league player, playing in the Wests Tigers 2005 NRL premiership, and clocking up a total of 197 NRL games with Wests and Cronulla.

"I played both rugby league and AFL, but then I chose to just play AFL,'' says Khy.

"It's a whole different game than NRL. I just find it more fun because there's more room to run. And I love kicking the ball, and there's a lot more kicking in AFL.''

What does his dad think? "He's fine, he loves it.''

Khy says Nick Davis has helped him learn the game and appreciates the skills he's brought from rugby league. "Nick has taught me heaps, and he really gets the way I play footy. I play it a bit rougher and tougher,'' he says.

After the presentation in the inner sanctum, the Under 16s headed outside for their first training session of 2021, on Tramway Oval opposite the SCG.

Khy, who plays club footy with the Ingleburn Magpies, quickly found out that Smith meant what he said. "It was pretty hard, I can already see it's going to be much tougher than last year!''

Top 10 results from 1km Time Trial are below.

Liam Lieschke 2:53
Elliot Palmqvist 2:53
Kyan Upsall 2:54
Benjamin Cheshire 2:55
Sam McMeeken 2:56
Koby Hedges 2:59
Louis Kitto 3:02
Felix Mole 3:02

Lachlan Macnamara

Cooper McClennan 3:05
Elliot Palmqvist [pictured] and Hunter Academy player, Liam Lieschke, take out the time trial honours