The Sydney Swans will have nine players aged 22 or younger when it takes on modern-day rival Hawthorn tonight, but despite playing with a gang of youths it will head into the clash with a startling 8-4 record.
The youthful energy has been electrifying at times this season as the Swans start to enjoy the benefits of having a tightknit group that has grown and developed together over a few years.
Will Hayward will be one of the young Swans to face the Hawks and is as known for helping to build camaraderie around the club as he is for his cunning forward play.
“It's a really happy club and happy place to be at the moment. It’s funny what winning a few games can do,” Hayward told AFL.com.au.
“There are a lot of guys giving plenty of energy to the group and it's a good place to be at right now. Justin McInerney is very loud, and obviously ‘Paps’ is too.
“A lot of people are from interstate so we don’t have much choice but to be friends with everyone and it means we're a very tight group.”
Hayward is originally from South Australia and was taken at pick No.21 in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft, then burst onto the scene with 50 goals from 40 games in his first two seasons with the Swans.
After missing the opening few rounds of the competition, the 22-year-old has returned to being a valuable part of the forward set up and has kicked 12 goals in the past eight games.
"During pre-season I was a bit slow to get going and wasn't in the best form. The coaches were really good about it, they gave me a bit of notice before round one that I wouldn't be playing so it wasn't as much of a surprise,” Hayward said.
"The frustrating bit was that I knew I wasn't playing well, but to go back in the VFL and get some form and confidence back was a blessing in disguise.
“I'm just grateful to be back playing ones now, playing with a bit of freedom and playing a role.”
Hayward has taken on multiple roles in his 78 games with the Swans, including time across half-back last year, but has mostly played as a high half-forward this season.
With his pace on the ground and strength overhead, the 186cm Hayward can be a difficult matchup for opposition defences also trying to deal with the threat of Lance Franklin, Tom Papley and Isaac Heeney.
“I play pretty high and get between the arcs a fair bit, and then let our lively and dangerous forwards in 'Bud' and 'Paps' and 'Heens' try and get nice matchups deep in the 50,” Hayward said.
"The high half-forwards work a lot with a winger, we try to pick up their man so the winger can get back and defend. Myself and Sam Wicks, and Isaac at times too, will play that role and work off the ball to allow a spare back to support a defender.
“If I can get back inside 50 and sneak in a goal myself, I'm pretty happy with that. Three on the weekend [against St Kilda] was good but it’s all about the team winning.”