Wednesday WAFL: Spirit of 2010 should inspire Swan Districts
It might not have the spread of top-end talent and a modern-day genius to ignite its best football but the current Swan Districts team has more than a few parallels to the premiership-winning 2010 combination.
And while Tony Notte was overlooked for that epic grand final, 12 years later the veteran defender can dare to dream about might take place on the last day of this season. Swans are in fifth place by a game but have inferior percentage to sixth-placed Peel; they need to play exceptionally well over the next month to deny the Thunder a place in the finals.
But should Swans qualify for September action, their myriad of fans can hark back to one of the greatest days in club history as inspiration for what might happen a decade or so later. There is the robust defensive unit that stood up under considerable East Perth pressure last week to underpin one of the grittiest wins of the season.
Notte is the lynchpin of that defence, an aerial obstruction who ranks alongside 2010 full-back Tallan Ames as both a fan favourite and inspirational team-mate. A lanky Victorian stood at the other end of the ground 12 years ago, just as one does today.
Ash Hansen was a star of the AFL who added a Swans premiership to the 2006 version he won at West Coast.
Chris Jones has a similar role to play today as the prime target in attack and could better Hansen by winning the Bernie Naylor Medal this season.
He only touched the ball three times against the Royals but delivered three goals when they were needed most.
A Sandover medallist operates out of the middle in the current Swans team, just as one was the inspiration for the club’s last flag.
Sam Fisher might not match Andrew Krakouer’s iconic standing at the club but the sweet left-footer is still a match-winner who is having a more influential say this season than he did when he won the medal in 2020.
The presence of other hardened midfielders around Fisher, with Jesse Turner, Josh Cipro and Aidan Clarke sharing the load, is not dissimilar to the roles played by Josh Roberts, Brett Robinson and Wayde Twomey as Krakouer’s colleagues.
And don’t be surprised if the teenaged Stephen Coniglio, who foreshadowed a substantial AFL career with a brilliant grand final cameo, is not echoed by Elijah Hewett in a couple of months’ time.
Now don’t get too excited.
The current Swans team plays – sometimes - with spirit, discipline and endeavour but it clearly does not have the class and stars who were about to shine in 2010. That team contained a dozen players who had already been on AFL lists while Michael Walters, Clancee Pearce and Coniglio were in the earliest stages of careers that would extend to a century of games at the highest level.
It would be a far stretch to suggest the 2022 version might boast a handful of potential AFL stars, let alone a group that accounts for more than half its line-up. And the current team can’t match the array of tough and experienced 2010 players whose motivation and drive were honed by the heartache of a grand final loss two years earlier.
Roberts (139 games), Ames (133), Ben Colreavy (101), Llane Spaanderman (84), Tim Geappen (64), Justin Simpson (63), Twomey (58) and Brett Wolfenden (57) had been established and influential league players for multiple seasons by the time they set off for premiership glory.
The current team, by comparison, averages just 49 games of league experience for each player with that figure dropping to a wafer-like 38 once Notte’s remarkable record of 275 matches is discounted.
Brandon Erceg and Tony Stephens are high-quality WAFL footballers but it has taken both of them the best part of a decade to reach their half-century milestones this season.
Successful 2010 coach Bran Dawson always used to say that Swans’ premiership teams emerged with little warning. Who knows what the rest of 2022 will hold but Swans can do worse than look back as they prepare to go forward.
Wednesday hero: It is a little way off but Adrian Barich, a former club captain, inaugural Eagle and prominent media figure, is firming as Perth’s next president. Perth need all the help they can get – and probably much more – as they attempt to extract themselves from the mediocrity that has been their lot for nearly half a century. If he takes on one of the biggest challenges in WA football, expect the energetic Barich to sink his teeth into the role with the sort of enthusiasm that could make a significant difference. But the Demons still need a root-and-branch review.
IMAGE: WA Football