Loss adds motivation
IT'S A FEELING that no AFL player wants to deal with and few on Sydney's list have endured: the emptiness that comes after losing a grand final.
Seven remain from the team that lost to West Coast by one point in the 2006 grand final, while former outsiders Mark Seaby and Rhyce Shaw went through the misery with the Eagles and Collingwood respectively.
While most of those players have won a premiership, Shaw, Nick Malceski, co-captain Jarrad McVeigh and key defender Ted Richards had no such medallion to console themselves with.
To make matters worse for Richards, now the general of Sydney's defence and in All-Australian contention, he was one of the Swans' best in the 2006 decider.
''I've got a lot of positive memories from that, but a lot of sad memories as well,'' the former Essendon forward said yesterday of the game that capped his first season with Sydney.
It's no surprise the disappointment of 2006 has provided motivation for Richards.
And finally, things are really falling into place.
The 29-year-old is in career-best form, overseeing the stingiest back line in the league.
And his teammates, in the midst of a week off prior to next Friday night's home preliminary final against either Collingwood or West Coast, have reason to feel buoyant about the rest of September.
''It was pretty similar [to 2006] in that we won the qualifying final over in Perth, had the week off and then played the prelim out at ANZ,'' he said.
''It [the 2006 grand final] definitely does drive me because I've had that taste of what finals is like at this time of year.
''I really want to go one better than last time.''
The Swans will have a training session tomorrow in the absence of a match.
Richards said the week off had been mentally refreshing, but just as physical as usual.
''It's definitely a change, but it's a change we're really valuing.
''We're still probably doing just as much training, but it's a good change not to have so many meetings.
''We've already started talking about both [potential opponents Collingwood and West Coast].
''We've had an opportunity to utilise these extra seven days, as opposed to starting fresh on Monday next week.''