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Season Review – Swan DistrictsTuesday, December 7, 2021 - 8:34 PM - by Chris Pike

It has been a long build back to playing finals for Swan Districts but they got there in 2021 and ultimately deserved to consider themselves a little unlucky to not have a greater impact in them.

Really it has been a tough grind for Swan Districts since their remarkable premiership triumph of 2010. Over the next decade, Swans would only play in six finals matches and only win one of them which was an elimination final over West Perth in 2017.

Following an impressive home and away season, the black-and-whites found themselves back in the same position in 2021 as they played finals for the first time in four years and for the first time under coach Adam Pickering.

Swans would go on to open up a 14-point half-time lead on the road to West Perth and even though they ended up losing the elimination final in heartbreaking fashion, the season was one that should be built upon further moving forward.

They have lost retiring stars Matt Riggio and Alex Howard, with Howard part of a star back-line for Swan Districts in 2021 featuring new recruit Chris Jones, 264-game veteran Tony Notte, lockdown master Anthony Stephens and then WAFL Team of the Year member Brandon Erceg.

The Swans midfield was also vastly improved led by Team of the Year members Frank Anderson and Jesse Turner along with Sandover Medallist Sam Fisher and Josh Cipro.

Kicking goals has been the question over Swans for much of the past decade but they got some answers in 2021 with 35 goals to Jesse Palmer and 24 to Brayden Noble.

Swans will be hoping Corey Gault is back in 2021 even though they will lose Frank Anderson after he ruptured his ACL, with impressive talent to bring through from the colts, the future should be bright at Steel Blue Oval.

COACH: Adam Pickering (Fourth season, 23-40 record)

CAPTAINS: Tony Notte, Matt Riggio

FINISHING POSITION: Fifth, 10-8, 109.7% (Lost elimination final)

BEST TEAM PERFORMANCE: It was the drought breaking win over Subiaco in Round 12 that really sent a message that Swan Districts meant business in 2021. Having lost the previous 12 games to the Lions by an average of nearly 50 points, Swans scored the thrilling one-point win at Leederville Oval for their first win against Subiaco in years.

Frank Anderson arrived to be a key cog in the Swan Districts midfield in 2020 alongside Sam Fisher but despite having a good first season himself, when Fisher won the Sandover Medal, he did take somewhat a backseat. However, he took his game to another level throughout 2021 becoming one of the very best and most consistent on-ballers across the competition. He had a brilliant season averaging 25.5 disposals a game while ending up winning the Swan Medal as club fairest and best and being named to the WAFL Team of the Year. The only problem was midway through another terrific performance in the elimination final against West Perth with 23 possessions to his name, he ruptured his ACL and has since undergone a knee reconstruction.

There were absolutely no signs of a Sandover Medal hangover for Sam Fisher with the way he started 2021. He started off with 33 possessions, six tackles, five inside 50s and a goal in the opening round against Claremont. Then he went up another gear in Swans' Round 2 win over Perth with 41 disposals, seven marks, seven inside 50s, six tackles and a goal.

Will Collins –
Round 1 v Claremont
Jake Dugan – Round 18 v Peel Thunder
Matthew Germs – Round 12 v Subiaco
Chris Jones – Round 1 v Claremont
Jehb O'Donohue – Round 22 v Claremont
Greg Ottaviano – Round 19 v East Perth
Jesse Palmer – Round 1 v Claremont

He made his debut as a teenager in a team that were reigning premiers and retired after a heartbreaking finals loss, but in between Alex Howard put together a career that was built on consistency and needs to be celebrated for its quality. He was only 17 when he debuted but it's never mattered. Over the past 11 seasons, he has been a cornerstone of the Swan Districts defence and while rarely attracting the headlines, he was just as rarely beaten and you could count on one hand the games he wasn’t rock solid in. When that added up to Howard earning life membership with Swan Districts and playing 174 matches then that's something he deserves to be enormously proud of as he now embarks on retirement.

He lost a couple of his usual defensive teammates for the clash with Claremont with Alex Howard out injured and Chris Jones moving up forward to provide a target, and Swan Districts did lose to the Tigers but it through no fault of his. He finished off the best home and away season of his career with his body staying sound by delivering another 16 disposals and nine marks.

There was a lot that worked and it was on the back of a strong defensive unit that held up firmly. Chris Jones was a strong addition as another tall, marking defender while Tony Notte and Alex Howard remained the rocks down there. Brandon Erceg had the season of his career while Anthony Stephens took on the big jobs on the best mid to small forwards of the opposition, and Swans ended up conceding just 67.2 points a game. Their forward-line improved on previous season and even though they missed Corey Gault in the ruck to close the season, the midfield of Frank Anderson, Sam Fisher, Jesse Turner, Josh Cipro and company did well.

The attack of Swan Districts was better in 2021 than previous years but still needs to get better if they want to go from being a finals team to a premiership threat. They averaged just 73.4 points a game which had them ranked seventh only in that category despite being third defensively. They will also need a midfield replacement for Frank Anderson who ruptured his ACL in the elimination final while the experience of Alex Howard and Matt Riggio need covering too. However, there is great young talent coming through at Swans so getting some of them into the mix, potentially adding some extra run to their side and goalkicking threats is what they should be looking for.

The outlook is bright at Steel Blue Oval. All three grades made finals in 2021, the colts won the premiership and there is a lot of talent to come through to get a chance at league level. As mentioned above, the loss in particular of Alex Howard down back and Frank Anderson in the middle will be tough to cover, but a fully healthy Corey Gault could be a virtual new recruit. They should also welcome AFL-listed foursome Jarrod Cameron, Jarvis Pina, Will Collins and Tobe Watson so there's every reason to expect Swan Districts to build on their finals appearance from this year.