Heading into 2015, Sydney featured in the top four of virtually all football experts.
They’ve been grand finalists in two of the past three seasons, taking out the flag in 2012 in a classic against Hawthorn.
But the perception created by their past two losses in finals leaves a lingering, bitter taste: when the going gets tough, Sydney’s engine room can’t handle the heat.
In the 2013 preliminary final against Fremantle, Sydney’s midfielders were mauled by a possessed Dockers side.
And in last year’s Grand Final, Sydney were blown off the park by the Hawks in the most one-sided decider since Geelong obliterated Port Adelaide in 2007.
People point to their impressive win over Port at the Adelaide Oval in Round 2 as evidence of their might, but that win should come with an asterisk.
Port had engaged in trench warfare with Fremantle for four quarters in Perth six days earlier, and in hot conditions.
Sydney’s midfield comes with an A-List rep, but when put under the pump Daniel Hannebery, Kieren Jack and Luke Parker don’t look up to it.
Gary Rohan and Lewis Jetta, both of whom were missing in action in last year’s Grand Final, have made underwhelming starts to the season.
The Swans were lucky to beat Essendon in Round 1, gave up a huge start to Fremantle and most recently they relinquished four points to the Western Bulldogs at the SCG.
Since their 2012 triumph, they’ve added the twin towers of Kurt Tippett and Lance Franklin, but lost plenty of quality all across the park.
Jude Bolton and Ryan O’Keefe have retired and taken their considerable grunt with them, while Shane Mumford, Nick Malceski and Lewis Roberts-Thompson have all moved on.
Couple this with the fact that Adam Goodes looks like a man who is all of a sudden feeling his age, and it’s not difficult to see why the Swans aren’t looking as powerful as they once did.
“The players we’ve got on our list, I’m confident with our younger kids coming on,” coach John Longmire said before the start of the season.
“We would expect those to keep improving.”
And there are some encouraging signs for Sydney. Tom Mitchell impressed in his first game for the season against the Dogs, while Swans Academy product Isaac Heeney played the first four games before suffering an ankle injury.
Sydney play Melbourne and Geelong in the next fortnight before coming up against Hawthorn in Round 8.
They then meet Carlton and Gold Coast, so they could reach Round 11 at 8-2, or 7-3.
Certainly a couple of losses early in the season haven’t dampened the bookies’ enthusiasm – they are still joint second-favourite for the premiership, level with Fremantle and behind only Hawthorn.
A soft run home (GWS, St Kilda and Gold Coast) means they will probably finish in the top four and hit September with a double chance.
But it remains to be seen whether this list, and especially the midfield, has the steel to stand up against the very best sides under finals heat.
Recent evidence suggests not.