Since 2001, the Sydney Swans have won two premierships, played in four grand finals, have had two top-ten draft picks, have missed the finals only twice, and have pulled off the most extraordinary recruitment of a player in AFL history.
But how has their drafting fared? Let’s find out.
Sydney’s incredible success over the last decade and a half hasn’t come without strings attached. Consistent finals appearances and premierships means their access to high draft picks has been limited at times. But has that stopped them from detecting absolute gems deeper in the draft?
Well, if you’ve read my previous scouting reports on the some of the other AFL clubs, you’ll know the draft selections below will be labelled either sweet or sour depending on how that player’s career turned out. This could include playing 250 games, asking for a trade, captaining the side or being delisted after two games.
Top five sweets
1 – Jarrad McVeigh
Sydney drafted Jarrad McVeigh with the 5th pick in the 2002 AFL Draft. With a high pick comes high expectations, and McVeigh has absolutely rewarded Sydney with his outstanding career as a Swan.
Starting out as a tagger, McVeigh has transformed himself into a tough, contested, ball-winning, goal-kicking midfielder. 254 games, 177 goals, 2-time best and fairest winner, premiership captain, All-Australian (2013), and most importantly, he’s accomplished it all with the red and the white.
Since 2011, McVeigh has been captain/co-captain of the Swans, and his leadership has been inspiring. McVeigh’s versatility and value were put on display in round 8 this year against Hawthorn, when he turned the game on its head, kicking two goals in the final term to lead his side to a heroic victory.
2 - Kieran Jack
If you had told me that a kid who grew up with rugby league royalty, who was rookie drafted (pick 57) in the 2005 AFL Draft; would go on to play 174 games (126 goals), win a best and fairest, be named All-Australian, be the co-captain of the Swans and win a premiership, I would have told you, well, that you were crazy.
Call it unlikely. Call it unbelievable. Call it Kieran Jack.
Jack’s journey as an AFL player has been one of the best in recent years. He’s transformed himself into an elite and complete midfielder.
The midfielder, who is much smaller compared to some of his opposition counterparts; tackles, runs hard, wins contested ball, wins clearances, kicks goals, leads from the front and can do a defensive number on some of the other stars in the competition.
If he’d played 100 games as a rookie-drafted player, well, that would’ve been impressive enough, but for all he’s achieved, and for his impact on this club, well, it couldn’t be sweeter for the Sydney Swans.
3 - Heath Grundy
Over the years, Sydney has had a knack of finding diamonds in the rough. And one of their best rough diamond detections is Heath Grundy, who was rookie drafted in 2004 with pick 42 by the Swans.
It’s been an interesting journey for Grundy. Starting out as a forward, he’s gone on to build and play in one of the best defensive units in the AFL. In 2014, the Swans statistically had the best defensive group in the competition. He’s underrated and keeps out of the spotlight, but Grundy, since his move down back, has consistently defended the opposition’s best forwards, and has done his job well.
In his 174-game career, he’s never been named All-Australian, but I’m sure the 2012 premiership medallion would keep him smiling.
For a key defender, to average 17 disposals, 5 marks and 2 tackles a game over your career is elite. And it’s pretty sweet...
4 - Luke Parker
It’s an early call and it’s a big call, but Luke Parker could be the biggest steal of the AFL Draft if his first 93 games are anything to go by.
There will be one question asked by AFL recruiters, AFL clubs, players, fans, coaches and all when Luke Parker retires; how in the hell did he slip to pick 40 in the 2010 AFL Draft? Scratch when he retires, we are already wondering how this is possible.
Courageous. Tough. Hard-hitting. Relentless. Leader. Elite. Does anyone else have some words they want to throw at me to describe him?
Parker is an inspiring young player who has set the game alight since entering the AFL. Name me one AFL club who wouldn’t want him in their side? He puts his body on the line, and you can see his genuine passion and love for the game when he competes each week.
He has kicked 71 career goals and his already averaging 21 disposals, 3 marks, 4 tackles and almost a goal a game over his young career.
He won his first best and fairest last season, but was unlucky to miss out of All-Australian honours. Parker is also a premiership player.
5 – The rest of 2002
This was a really tough decision, and Sydney fans, please tell me if I’ve picked this incorrectly. The final sweet drafting spot came down to Daniel Hannebery (pick 30 in 2008), Lewis Roberts Thomson (pick 21 in 2001) or the three players drafted in 2002 whom I’m about to tell you about.
In 2002, as you know already, the club drafted Jarrad McVeigh with pick 5. But did you know they also added Nick Malceski, Craig Bolton and Paul Bevan with extraordinary draft selections.
Nick Malceski joined the Swans via the 64th selection in the 2002 National Draft. Malceski turned out to be a bargain for the Swans, as he ended up playing 176 games, winning a premiership and being named All-Australian in 2014. After being crippled by injuries early on, Malceski developed into an attacking weapon for the Swans off halfback. He joined Gold Coast in the offseason, a move I don’t think Swans fans are too sour about... especially because of his incredible last minute snap which sealed the Swans the 2012 premiership cup.
After 29 games with the Lions, Sydney decided to draft Craig Bolton in the 2003 Pre-Season Draft (held in the 2002 off-season). Bolton developed into a significant player and defender for the Swans, playing 170 games in what was a very successful tenure for the club. He finished his career as a 2-time All-Australian, a premiership player in 2005 and a co-captain of the club for a few years.
Lastly, in 2002, the Swans drafted Paul Bevan with the 64th pick in the rookie draft. Now Bevan wasn’t a superstar, but he was a solid contributor over his 129-game career with the club. He was a small utility type, who could play forward, in the middle and in defence. Bevan was also apart of the premiership squad in 2005.
Along with McVeigh, the Swans drafted four quality players in 2002. Awesome work.
Lewis Roberts-Thomson (#21, 2001 ND), Adam Schneider (#60, 2001 ND), Amon Buchanan (#45, 2003 ND), Nick Smith (#15, 2006 RD), Jesse White (#79, 2006 ND), Craig Bird (NSW Scholarship, #59, 2007 ND), Daniel Hannebery (#30, 2008 ND), Mike Pyke (#57, 2008 RD), Lewis Jetta (#14, 2009 ND), Sam Reid (#38, 2009 ND), Alex Johnson (#57, 2010 ND), Kurt Tippett (#11, 2013 PD) and Dane Rampe (#37, 2012 RD).
Top five sours
1 – Patrick Veszpremi
In the 2007 AFL Draft, the Sydney Swans had their hands on their highest draft pick since 2002 (when they drafted McVeigh). They had pick 11, in a draft, which has turned out to be a deep, talented draft class.
They drafted Patrick Veszpermi, who could play a midfield role but was more dangerous as a forward. He played only 11 games in two seasons with the Swans, and was traded in 2010 to the Western Bulldogs, in exchange for Andrejs Everitt. He had a similar tenure with the Bulldogs and was delisted in 2013.
But still, the wasted opportunity with pick 11 should not be overlooked. Cyril Rioli went at pick 12, whilst Brad Ebert, Callan Ward, Harry Taylor, Alex Rance, Scott Selwood and Taylor Walker were all drafted later in the same draft.
2 – Lewis Johnston
In 2008, the Swans drafted Lewis Johnston with the 12th pick in the draft. Johnston was a talented junior, but unfortunately for him and the Swans, injuries after injuries led him to appear in only two senior games over his time with the club.
In 2011, he was traded to the Crows for Tony Armstrong. He was delisted by Adelaide in 2014 after 8 games, bringing his career total to 10 AFL games. Whilst drafting Dan Hannebery at pick 30 makes this mishap a little sweeter, it’s a bit sour knowing the likes of Dayne Beams and Rory Sloane were drafted after Johnston.
3 – Daniel O’Keefe
Fresh off a premiership win, the Swans had a chance in 2006 to add to their successful line-up. They owned the rights to pick 15 in the AFL Draft and selected Daniel O’Keefe.
O’keefe didn’t register an AFL game with the Swans in three seasons. Unfortunately for Sydney, it was a sour ending to their former pick 15.
Robbie Gray was drafted with pick 55 in the same draft.
4 – Josh Willoughby
The 2003 AFL Draft wasn’t the deepest draft, but the Swans would’ve been hoping for a little more than 0 AFL games from their selection in the draft, pick 16, Josh Willoughby.
I don’t know much about Willoughby, but I do know that David Mundy, Jed Adcock and Sam Fisher were still available.
5 – Brett Meredith
This 5th sour spot was going to Jed Lamb, until I remembered that he delisted himself in a bid to earn more senior opportunities, after the announcement that Buddy Franklin was joining the club. And I don’t think any Swans person is sour about Buddy coming.
So this last spot goes to Brett Meredith, a former pick 26 in the 2007 AFL Draft. Meredith played 16 games throughout four years with the club, and was delisted in 2012.
Jack Steven and Levi Greenwood are other talented midfielders who were drafted after Meredith in 2007.
Oh well, you win some and you lose some.
(Not) Worthy Mentions
Mark Powell (#28, 2001 ND), Sean Dempster (F/S, #34, 2002 ND), Tim Schmidt (#29, 2003 ND), Jarred Moore (#31, 2004 ND), David Spriggs (#47, 2004 ND), Trent Dennis-Lane (#55, 2009 ND), Daniel Bradshaw (#4, 2009 PD), Jed Lamb (#21, 2010 ND), Matthew Spangher (#73, 2010 ND) and Tim Membrey (#46, 2012 ND).
Both sweet and sour – Gary Rohan
There comes a time in each of these sweet and sour drafting reports, where I’m unsure about a player’s sweet or sour status. That’s where I turn it over to you, the football world, to make the decision.
Gary Rohan – drafted with pick 6 in 2009 has played 54 games with the club, mainly due to serious injuries.
He’s a utility who has height, athleticism and speed. But, in hindsight, was he worth a pick 6?
Nat Fyfe, Mitch Duncan and Jack Gunston were all still available. So, if you had your time again, would you redraft Rohan? It’s up to you...is he a sweet or a sour?
Sydney has done a pretty remarkable job with their drafting since 2001. To only miss the finals twice since the super draft is a superhuman performance.
2002 was sweet, whilst 2007 was pretty sour. Since high draft picks have been scarce, their ability to find gems in the late rounds of the national draft, and in particular the rookie draft have been exceptional. Keiran Jack, Heath Grundy, Dane Rampe, Mike Pyke and Nick Smith are some of the best examples of this.
Big recruits like Kurt Tippett and Buddy Franklin, and valuable trading for Ben McGlynn and Josh Kennedy have perhaps fast tracked and over shadowed some of their drafting. But as a whole, their drafting mistakes have been kept to a minimum, at least compared to the other AFL clubs in the same time period.
The future is also exciting. Isaac Heeney anyone? Have you heard of him? Well, he looked very comfortable in the first few games of this season. Tom Mitchell, Harry Cunningham, Jake Lloyd, Brandon Jack and Zak Jones are the next breed ready to make their mark.
It’s hard to see them slipping away from the top of the table in the next few years, and their quality drafting over a long period has played a big role in this.