They’ve acquired some dazzling footballing bling in Lance Franklin, but Sydney know they will need more than a good Buddy to win more AFL silverware.
Luring the game’s most charismatic figure was Sydney’s biggest recruiting coup since Tony Lockett was enticed from St Kilda two decades ago.
Sydney adores a superstar and Franklin’s arrival gives Australian rules the weapon to counter the marquee men in the other football codes – Alessandro Del Piero (soccer), Sonny Bill Williams (rugby league) and Israel Folau (rugby union).
New teammates have spoken glowingly about Franklin’s commitment and an unprecedented crowd for their normally sparsely-attended intra-club hitout attested to his pulling power.
Long-term injuries to Adam Goodes, Sam Reid, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Rhyce Shaw, Alex Johnson, Lewis Jetta and Gary Rohan blighted Sydney’s 2013 campaign, though they still finished fourth.
Sydney coach John Longmire won’t be drawn into making bold predictions about a Franklin-inspired premiership push.
He views Franklin’s recruitment as part of the club’s desire to evolve following a 2013 preliminary final exit.
“Part of that evolution is having new players come into the team and changing the way we play at different times,” Longmire told AAP.
“We saw that with Jetta, who has been able to make some differences to the team at different times, hopefully we see the same with Gary Rohan.
“Obviously Franklin is another player that can help change the style, just by the type of players that they are.”
But the inclusion of Franklin on a mega-bucks nine-year deal has come at a cost.
Premiership ruckman Shane Mumford and Jed Lamb have crossed town to join the Giants, while Jesse White, Andrejs Everitt and Tony Armstrong also found new AFL homes.
Even so, Longmire is adamant the Swans still have good depth.
“We feel as though we’ve been able to recruit to help those roles to be fill to be filled and add some more depth to our team,” Longmire said.
“If you look through our team now, the combination of the players we are getting back from last year from injury, plus the continued development of a lot of those blokes who played last year, and some of the blokes that didn’t play last year that are still on our list, we feel as though we’ve got some really strong depth now.”
As was the case at Hawthorn, Franklin will be far from a one-man show, with plenty of high quality support staff to help Sydney strive for a fourth grand final and third premiership in 10 years.
He adds firepower to a forward line that already includes Kurt Tippett, Reid and Goodes, who can also play in the ruck, defence and midfield respectively.
Tippett was Sydney’s leading goalkicker last year with just 35 despite missing the first half of the campaign through a league-imposed suspension.
Sydney have pace to go with their size in Jetta and Rohan, who have played few games together due to injuries, while Ben McGlynn can shuttle between midfield and the forward line.
Down back, Sydney have added former Carlton defender Jeremy Laidler, while Johnson returns after missing all of last season with a serious knee injury.
They support established defensive pillars Ted Richards, Heath Grundy, Nick Malceski, Shaw and Nick Smith.
The deep midfield rotation include several proven performers in co-captains Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack, Josh Kennedy, Ryan O’Keefe and Dan Hannebery, plus emerging stars Luke Parker and Tom Mitchell.
While losing Mumford and White has hit their ruck stocks, Longmire has confidence in the constantly improving Mike Pyke.
Coach: John Longmire
Captains: Jarrad McVeigh, Kieren Jack
Last five years: 12-5-6-1-4
Premierships: 5 (1909, 1918, 1933, 2005, 2012)
Key five: Lance Franklin, Kieren Jack, Josh Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh, Ted Richards
One to watch: Lance Franklin. Who else? The biggest name in the AFL moves to the biggest city in the country, one which tends to only take serious notice of the Swans when they do big things.
Ins: Aliir Aliir (East Fremantle WAFL), Tom Derickx (Richmond), Lance Franklin (Hawthorn), George Hewett (South Adelaide SANFL), Zak Jones Dandenong U18), Jeremy Laidler (Carlton), Toby Nankervis (North Launceston Tas).
Outs: Tony Armstrong (Collingwood), Jude Bolton (retired), Alex Brown (delisted), Andrejs Everitt (Carlton), Jed Lamb (Greater Western Sydney), Martin Mattner (retired), Mitch Morton (retired), Shane Mumford (Greater Western Sydney), Jesse White (Collingwood).
Best 22: B: Nick Smith, Ted Richards, Alex Johnson
HB: Rhyce Shaw, Heath Grundy, Nick Malceski
C: Ryan O’Keefe, Jarrad McVeigh, Dan Hannebery
HF: Lewis Jetta, Sam Reid, Ben McGlynn
F: Adam Goodes, Lance Franklin, Gary Rohan
R: Mike Pyke, Josh Kennedy, Kieren Jack
I: Kurt Tippett, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Luke Parker, Tom Mitchell
Predicted finish: 1st
To win the flag: $4.75
To make the top eight: $1.10