“Very different” Swans want to challenge again

SWAN Districts might be going through a “developmental phase” according to coach Adam Dancey, but he believes there is no reason why the young side cannot challenge for a WAFL Women’s flag. The reigning preliminary finalists have seen a lot of experience turned over during the off-season, but it gives some fresh faces chances to step up.

The Swans are coming off a final four exit at the hands of eventual premiers Claremont, and while Dancy was pleased that his side could “rally” throughout the 2022 season, he was disappointed the team could not finish off its hard work in the penultimate round.

“To be honest we underperformed last year,” Dancey said. “I think we still had a window of opportunity and we did well to rally us through the year with all the things you deal with Covid and what not, to make it to the finals. It was really good in that first final, the second final against Claremont our first half was really good, but we just dropped off.

“I think that’s a contribution of a few things, but primarily for us probably a young side. We’ve been really young the last few years, we’ll be young again this year but not as young.”

Dancey said the fact the team got to that stage of the season was a huge positive, but they would have to work hard again to get back again after letting that opportunity slip. In 2023, Swan Districts will be minus Ashley Sharp, Emily McGuire, Lauren Osborne and Aimee Ralph, with the latter two retiring.

Sharp has taken the year off WAFL Women’s level to focus on her young child, while McGuire has taken up a work opportunity.

“(Sharp)’s left the club, she’s playing at a lower grade just for a little bit of enjoyment, a little bit of fun and fitness, and to keep herself interested and motivated from that perspective, but she won’t be with us this year,” Dancey said.

“Em McGuire who has been a stalwart of our footy club for many years even though she’s only 23. She’s got an opportunity mining FIFO, that she’s taken up, so that pulls her out of the season.”

Along with the outs, there were also a few other teenagers who are focusing on their schooling, meaning the Black Ducks will look vastly different come Round 1.

“We’ll be significantly different to next year, but with that obviously brings excitement, energy, new ideas, new thoughts, new challenges which the girls have really embraced and really happy with where we are after the preseason,” Dancey said. “What does that look like going into Round 1? I don’t know.

“We had one hitout with East Fremantle and we needed to see some girls and we got out of it what we needed to get out of it, so we’re really excited about what that looks like. We’ll still go in missing a couple of key figures into Round 1, but the opportunity there is for the new girls to the footy club to step up and have a crack and see how we go against a good opponent in Peel.”

Some new faces over the off-season include Peel Thunder ruck Lauren Quaife who has crossed to the Swans, while double bottom-ager Carys D’Addario is training the house down. Dancey nominated Fremantle AFLW train-on Ruby Mahony, as well as Naomi Baker, Demi Liddle, 2006-born Megan Carron and State Academy member Indiana West as others who have caught the eye already at the club be it senior or Rogers Cup level last year.

The Swan Districts coach said D’Addario (2025 AFLW Draft) and Lily Paterson (2024 AFLW Draft) are ones to watch for the future from the club, while also keeping an eye on a North Queensland recruit.

“These are girls who should be on state radar I feel, they’ve had some interruptions through preseason so not all of them are,” Dancey said. “Jasmine Ware‘s come across from Cairns after playing for Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory. We’re really excited to see how she’ll go.”

Swan Districts top AFLW Draft chance is young gun Jaime Henry who has been battling a corked shin since last year’s preliminary final. Though she is set to miss Round 1, Dancey hopes to have the AFLW Academy member back in black and white sooner rather than later.

“She injured herself in the prelim final last year,” Dancey said. “Got a really significant corky to one of her shins and she’s been unable to fully train basically since then. She’s been able to do bits and pieces and trying to manage the contusion and damage that’s there and get things right, so there’s been a bit for her to go through.

“She’s a super resilient kid and she’s pushed through it, but we probably won’t see her Round 1, not sure when she’ll be back, but I’d suggest it’s Round 2, Round 3. But that all depends on how she continues to build with that.”

The other Swan Districts player with state representation is Tyla Fitzgerald who has returned to the club from the State Academy with a point to prove.

“Tyla’s come back in pretty good form,” Dancey said. “She’s got some work to do to be fair at state level, but she’s still a threat. She’s super competitive, she loves the physicality of football, she’s one that once she gets playing again, she’ll well and truly be in the mix for state selection.”

Swan Districts is a tough club to predict a finishing position for this season. With so much turnover, anything is possible, and Dancey conceded it was more difficult to replace those players who had left, or got drafted in recent years such as Tara Stribley and Abbygail Bushby. Regardless, Dancey said he was keen to remain competitive and challenge for a flag.

“You start losing that top tier, and it’s never as quick to redevelop it, it’s always going to take a little bit of time, you could say we’re in a developmental phase, but realistically for myself, I think we have the talent to challenge this year again for a flag and we’re going to chase that,” he said. “We’ve spoken about it as a group. I don’t think you ever want to hide from the expectation to challenge.

“We want to challenge ourselves to be the best we can be, and I think the best you can be is a premiership, so we’ll still push that, but we’re also realistic to what we’re building and with the age group, we’re probably not at that position where it’s absolute and you go in saying we’ll absolutely win a grand final, but we’re certainly going to target that.”

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