Warning for rivals: the future looks red and white
IF THE sight of Lewis Jetta setting one wing alight was not intimidating enough for Sydney's opposition, next year there could be another speed machine, Gary Rohan, dashing down the other side of the ground.
Rohan will effectively be a new recruit for the Swans next year when they aim to achieve what eluded even the powerhouse Geelong sides of recent years and become the first team to win back-to-back flags since Leigh Matthews's mighty Lions.
In an indication of the surprise at Sydney's success this year, bookmakers have deviated from the norm by not installing the reigning premiers as favourite in next year's flag race.
Speed to burn … Alex Johnson and Mike Pyke celebrate back at the SCG yesterday. Photo: Marco Del Grande
Instead beaten finalists Hawthorn, at $3.50 with TAB Sportsbet, will head into the off-season as the punters' elect for 2013 ahead of the Swans and West Coast at $7.
Seldom, if ever, do teams back up with the same 22, and coach John Longmire's task, once the celebrations are over, will be to turn over his list in a bid to find the improvement required to defend Sydney's crown.
It's not yet clear if Jude Bolton will follow in the footsteps of his 2005 premiership teammate Jason Ball by bowing out on a high or whether the rising 33-year-old will try to squeeze a 15th season out of his battered but seemingly unbreakable body.
Even his closest confidants are uncertain what he will do but co-captain Jarrad McVeigh, still on a high from boisterous celebrations, yesterday urged Bolton to play on.
''He'll play, no doubt,'' McVeigh said. ''His body's unbelievable and he's playing great footy.''
The Swans are believed to be keen for Bolton to head to the well again but they will also be keen to hand more opportunities to Luke Parker, the youngest member of their champion team, who was a regular vest-wearer in the latter stages of the year.
Good judges at Sydney believed Rohan was on track for a similar rise to All-Australian nominee Jetta this year until he suffered a horrific broken leg in round four.
''We think he'll be a fantastic recruit for us,'' Longmire said. ''I thought he was about to go to another level as a player before he got injured. It'll be great to see him back in the red and white.''
The 21-year-old from Cobden in Victoria is continuing his long rehabilitation but is aiming to resume running when the club starts pre-season next month.
As electrifying as Jetta is, Rohan is even quicker. Rohan has Jetta covered in the club's 20-metre time trials though neither can match dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes out of the blocks.
Although clubs were able to reduce Jetta's influence by placing a hard tag on him during the final third of the season, they will find it more difficult to quell both him and Rohan. ''That's what people in the crowd were saying - you and Jetts on a wing, it'd be quite exciting having the speedsters in the side,'' Rohan said. ''[I want to] give extra value to the club.''
Despite the seriousness of Rohan's injury, he has been reassured by doctors it will not rob him of his blistering pace.
He has already vowed to use the disappointment of missing out this year as spur for 2013.
''It drives me and motivates me to try and get back into the side; it's going to be the same side next year,'' Rohan said. ''I should be running around November, which is exciting. I should be right for round one, round two next year.''
Given the number of compensation picks being activated this year, the Swans, as premiers, will again have to adopt what club chairman Richard Colless has described as their ''moneyball'' philosophy towards recruiting. While the Swans have a promising group of young stars progressing, there were six players from Saturday's team who will be 30 or older next year.
Club legend Bob Skilton is among those who believe this crop of Swans can lift even further.
''I think we'll be a better side next year than this year,'' the triple Brownlow medallist said.