AFL 2016: Sydney Swans defender Ted Richards impressed by rise of club’s newbies

Making a name for himself: George Hewett. Photo: Michael Dodge New talent: Tom Papley is tackled during the round two AFL match between the Carlton Blues and the Sydney Swans at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Scott Barbour/AFL Media
Nanjing Night Net

Impressive start: Ted Richards celebrates the win with Swans fans during the round two match between the Carlton Blues and Sydney at Etihad Stadium. Photo: Michael Dodge

Defender Ted Richards admits he is surprised by the promising beginning of Sydney’s newcomers, who have been a revelation in their unbeaten start to the season.

The oldest player on the club’s list, Richards has seen his share of summer standouts who do not cut the mustard when it really counts, but he says the latest crop of kids are proving they can deliver.

The team Richards ran out with in his first game of the season was much different to the 22 in his previous match in last year’s finals. There were eight changes in total, including three who have made their AFL debuts this season.

Teenager Tom Papley has been arguably the most impressive newby, vaulting from the rookie list to being one of the Swans’ better players in the first two rounds. “There’s a lot of guys over the years that train well in December and January and can be a standout at training,” Richards said. “I’ve seen it happen a lot. It’s when the young guys get the opportunity to do it against quality opposition is when it really counts. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised by Tom Papley. He was a pick from the rookie draft. He’s worked his way not only onto the senior list but the starting 18.”

This is the second major renovation Richards, in his 11th season at the club, has seen at the Swans. The first came  when some of the heroes of the 2005 flag moved on and were replaced by the likes of Josh Kennedy, Shane Mumford, Rhyce Shaw and Martin Mattner – all of whom played key roles in the 2012 premiership.

Now it’s names such as Papley, George Hewett, Callum Mills and Callum Sinclair who have been injected into a Swans team aiming to return to the top four after the departures of Adam Goodes, Mike Pyke and Ryan O’Keefe in the past two years. Apart from Sinclair, who was recruited from West Coast, all were mined in drafts. “In my time at the Swans a lot of the newer players that have made impacts have come from trades,” said Richards, who started his career with Essendon.

“That’s what’s happened in the past, now in my time at the Swans we’re seeing draft picks and rookie listers. We’ve always been over my time at the Swans a fairly stable group. To lose the players we did last year for whatever reason and have these young guys come into the team and make an impact straight away it’s quite exciting – even from my perspective.

“Seeing what someone like Papley can do, even Georgey Hewett – I’m really excited for him. It’s his third year, he’s done some tough years where he hasn’t been getting opportunities. He’s been given an opportunity and taken it.”

Richards is hopeful their continued progress will improve the Swans’ depth, an area in which they were exposed late last year as a severe injury list took its toll.

“To a certain extent every team’s in that situation where you can’t be too reliant on a couple of guys to carry a team through the season – those teams will get found out,” Richards said.

“When guys come into the team, whether they’re young or been around for a couple of years, when they make an impact it’s good for the whole group. Match committee gets a bit harder but it’s a good problem for John [Longmire].”

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