It is hard to find a team as reliable as the Sydney Swans.
For the seventh season in a row, John Longmire’s side is a chance to not only make the finals, but go deep in them.
In fact, Sydney has missed the finals just once since 2002, an incredible record given the equalisation measures in place.
Ahead of Friday’s clash with West Coast, Sydney sits third on the ladder with nine victories from 12 matches, just one win behind the Eagles.
And if you take the club’s run last season into account, the Swans have won 24 of a possible 30 matches.
But Sydney is again slipping under the radar as media excitedly discuss who is a chance to win the 2018 premiership.
Is it because the Swans are up north and out of the glare of the Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth media maelstrom?
I think the reason is because Sydney do not really excite us.
We respect the Swans like we did Justin Langer as an opening bat. He was reliable and better than we thought … but he was not the swashbuckling Matthew Hayden who we all wanted Langer to give the strike to.
Collingwood, on the other hand, excites us.
The Magpies’ demolition of previously anointed genuine premiership chance, Melbourne, on the Queen’s Birthday have many believing the Pies can actually win it. Yes, win it!
We can see Sydney getting close but maybe we also have in the back of our minds that the Swans aren’t quite good enough?
A look at Sydney’s recent history shows a host of missed chances to win another flag.
After winning the premiership in 2012, it bowed out in a preliminary final in the following year.
A strong 2014 saw Sydney reach the Grand Final and the Swans entered as a genuine 50-50 chance against Hawthorn, only to lose by 10 goals in a poor performance.
A top-four finish failed to amount to anything in 2015, and despite entering the 2016 Grand Final as big favourites, the Western Bulldogs knocked off Sydney in a major upset.
I liken Sydney’s 2017 season to a Formula One race.
The Swans stalled on the grid and, despite being the best driver in the race after that, could not afford one slip up.
Tired, it eventually succumbed and lost to Geelong in a semi-final.
So, here we are again in 2018. Once more, Sydney is a chance to make the top four. A top-two finish is not out of the question, either.
But are the Swans a consistently very good team with a record of sustained high-level performance who just aren’t good enough to win premierships?
Perhaps bad luck with injuries or timing – like running into the Bulldogs full of momentum in 2016 – has played a factor.
It is very hard to be critical of the Swans, but it is fair to at least ask the question: Has Sydney fulfilled its talent and potential?
The club still has an array of excellent players.
Getting Lance Franklin across from Hawthorn was a masterstroke from the Swans.
He is the No.1 player in the AFL competition that gets people turning up to games and tuning in.
It will be a sad day when ‘Buddy’ leaves the football field for the last time.
Sydney’s captain Josh Kennedy is the best trade deal for value of any player in the history of the competition.
Isaac Heeney is the best academy player that New South Wales or Queensland have ever produced.
And Heath Grundy must rate as close to the best key defender ever elevated from the rookie list.
How that quartet got to the Swans shows how the club does its best work in the most critical area of the game, recruiting talent.
Despite what the media or fans think, no AFL club underestimates what Sydney can do.
Like every team, the Swans just need a little luck.
Peter Schwab played 171 VFL/AFL matches for Hawthorn from 1980 to 1991, winning three premierships. He later served as Hawthorn coach, AFL National Umpiring director, AFL Match Review Panel chairman and Brisbane Lions list manager