Sydney Swans: Australian Rules
team, in the Australian Football League
1897 (relocated to Sydney 1983)
Red and White
Home Ground: Sydney Cricket Ground
History: The Sydney Swans were originally known as South Melbourne and were a foundation member of the VFL, joining in 1897.
The Swans have, to put it mildly, been less than successful in their long and eventful history. The club's most succesful period was in the 1930s. The Bloods, as they were then called, made four successive grand finals, but only won one. This was the era of the high-flying Roy Cazaly, and Bob Pratt, who still holds the record for the number of goals kicked in a season. (150) He will forever be remembered for missing a grand final after being hit by a truck just days before the game. South Melbourne lost.
The club's 3 premierships came in 1909, 1918, and 1933.
In 1945, South Melbourne and Carlton played in the infamous Bloodbath Grand Final. Nine players were suspended for a variety of violent incidents that marked the day. The Bloodbath Grand Final marked the end of an era for South Melbourne, and the start of a very long stint in Finals Siberia. Between 1945 and 1996, the usually hapless Swans made a mere 4 finals series, (1970, 77, 76, and 87) and exited quickly the few times they did make it.
Even the influence of legends of the game such as Bob Skilton and Laurie Nash couldn't lift South Melbourne from the foot of the ladder.
In 1982, South Melbourne moved to Rugby-dominated Sydney, in an AFL attempt to convert fans to the Aussie Rules game. It was a last ditch effort to save the club, which was in dire financial strife. Early on, things didn't go well on or off the field. Money was non-existant, and the Sydney public virtually ignored the club.
In the late eighties, Dr Geoffry Edelsten took control of the club, and splashed his money about, buying big-name players and creating extravagent entertainment to attract spectators. The Edelsten era is remembered more for pink helicopters and the blonde, mulleted pretty-boy Warwick Capper's tight shorts than anything else. Sydney did make two finals series, but had no premiership success.
Dr Edelsten went bankrupt, and the club was plunged back into financial despair. Money again dried up, support from the fickle Sydney public dissappeared, and Sydney struggled. They finished dead last 1992-94, and only league intervention saved the club from extinction.
In 1993, legendary coach Ron Barassi took the helm, and legendary goalkicker Tony 'Plugger' Lockett moved to the club from St Kilda. Slowly, Sydney improved, and by 1995, things were looking up. Even so, no-one expected the fairy-tale year that was 1996. Rodney Eade took over as coach, and Sydney shot up the ladder, and made the grand final. Though they lost to the Kangaroos, Sydney for the first time in over 50 years had tasted real success, and the long suffering Swans faithful wanted more. This period of success couldn't have come at a better time for the Swans, with the traditionally dominating Rugby League game in all sorts of turmoil over the Super League split.
The next few seasons didn't deliver everything fans were hoping for, though. Sydney continued to make the finals, but slowly dropped down the ladder. Tony Lockett provided many highlights, breaking the all time goalkicking record, held previously by Collingwood's Gordon Coventry.
2001 was a decent year for Sydney. Though inconsistent, and often frustrating, Sydney showed glimpses of the form that took them to the Grand Final in 1996. The next couple of seasons should be a time for Sydney to blood new talent, needing to replace the rapidly aging core of players at the club.