Front & Centre: Celebrations in Sydney, recriminations at Hawthorn
AGE footy writers Caroline Wilson and Martin Blake cast their eyes over the epic Grand Final victory by Sydney over Hawthorn.PT6M59S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-26t84 620 349 September 30, 2012
Once again a Swans premiership has been made possible by their inspired trading.
IN THE early 1930s, South Melbourne's last premiership era, the Bloods were dubbed "The Foreign Legion". Long before Carlton's cheque book or the 10-year rule had entered football's radar, and when mention of a national draft conjured images only of a brand of beer popular across the land, the team from the Lakeside Oval staged a raid on the nation's best.
In 1932 they recruited Johnny Leonard from Western Australia as their captain-coach, although he would stay just one season. The 1933 premiership team contained five Western Australians: Brighton Diggins, Bill Faul, Jim O'Meara, John Bowe, and Bluey Beard. Ossie Bertram was recruited from South Australia, Laurie Nash had played his early senior football in Tasmania, and Terry Brain was born in Tasmania.
South Melbourne football club's 1932 Best & Fairest winner, Bill Faul.
It was so grand a recruiting coup that the description accorded it remains enshrined in football's vernacular. But eight or nine interstate players on a team's list today represent scarcely a working quota. So much has changed.
Yet the concept of a foreign legion is not a thing of the past to the modern-day Bloods. It's just that "foreign" now has a different connotation. Their 2012 premiership team contains Josh Kennedy, Shane Mumford, Ted Richards, Rhyce Shaw, Marty Mattner, Mitch Morton … and throw in Ben McGlynn.
All seven came to Sydney from other AFL clubs. Six of them took part in yesterday's triumph; McGlynn - cruelly denied - is a blue-chip member of the Swans' best 22. Both quantitatively and qualitatively they are the best collection of "trades" in any premiership team since … well, since the Swans won the flag in 2005.
Then, when former Saint Barry Hall helped Paul Roos raise the cup, Craig Bolton, Paul Williams, Nick Davis, Darren Jolly, and Jason Ball were gathered around. Club captain that year, former Tiger Stuart Maxfield, looked on, sidelined with a career-ending knee injury.
That group represented as seasoned a bunch of second-hand recruits as could be imagined. Only Jolly and Bolton had played fewer than 50 games elsewhere.
The other four brought a collective 450 games experience from their previous AFL lives. On arrival in Sydney they ranged in age from 22 (Bolton and Davis), to rising 28 in the case of Williams. On the day the flag was won, Williams and Ball were both 32. Indeed, it was Ball's last game. But the job had been done and the recruitments well and truly justified.
Now, a new band of recycled Swans has given ballast to a second premiership vessel. This lot brought an average of 53 games experience at their previous clubs, and the six who played yesterday, plus McGlynn, have now given their adopted club more than 550 games.
Meanwhile, the clubs with whom they traded have achieved a total of 314 games at their end of the transactions. The best reverse result has been Hawthorn's in the McGlynn deal.
Picks 46 and 70 were cannily used by the Hawks to acquire grand final players Ben Stratton and Matthew Suckling. They have given Hawthorn a combined 106 games, compared with McGlynn's 60 at Sydney. But look who's laughing now.
Next closest to a victory for a Swans' trading partner came with the Ted Richards swap. Essendon acquired Courtenay Dempsey and Sam Lonergan with selections 19 and 51 and have achieved 153 games from them.
Yet the verdict is clear-cut: a premiership and All-Australian key-position player, who has given his second club 148 games, puts Sydney well in front.
Geelong gained Mitch Duncan from the Mumford trade, and the jury will deliberate for some time on that one, as it may do on Collingwood's acquisition of Luke Rounds from the Rhyce Shaw trade. For now, though, the Swans are big winners.
And there remains credit in the bank. Mattner and Shaw are both 30, but are accomplished and still have pace. Richards is 29 and has now mastered his game. Kennedy, Mumford and McGlynn are in their prime, while Morton has become a premiership player after a previously unfulfilled career at three clubs in three states.
For the second time in seven years, a Swans premiership has been, in no small part, made possible by brilliant trading. Whether gravity can be defied forever remains one of modern football's eternal questions.
For now, though, not only are the Sydneysiders defying gravity, they are dancing on the ceiling.