What do the clubs say they stand for?
Gold Coast Suns
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Port Adelaide Power
St Kilda Saints
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Finding the M.E in team
There is a saying that a champion team will defeat a team of champions. It is a saying that has never really appealed to the Swans, especially the marketing department. Instead, the Swans have embraced the mantra that a champion, especially one that plays in the forward line, will bring the crowds and that is all that really matters.
Although the Swans are now a Sydney team, the club began its life as the South Melbourne Bloods. As the Bloods, the club built up one of the league's largest and most passionate supporter bases. In 1903 it was said that:
In their nine years in the VFA, the Bloods won five premierships. They were a foundation club of the VFL and won premierships in 1909 and 1918. In the thirties, the club reached its zenith and won its third premiership in 1933. It was during this time that a decision was made to change the name from 'Bloods' to 'Swans'.
The name change wasn’t exactly great for building an intimating image nor was it great for marketing. Whereas Richmond could stage promotional events such as sending players to feed tigers at the zoo, and Essendon could have its players pose for a photo in front of a stealth bomber, South Melbourne/Sydney was never able to find emotional erectness by photographing its players feeding Swans at the park.
With their new softer connotations, a new culture began to bite and three successive grand final defeats followed. After the 1936 defeat, the Swans suffered decades of poor performances. For the next 45 years, they finished 8th or better only eight times. Their only final appearances were the 1945 grand final and the first semi-final in 1970.
The one ray of sunshine was that the name change seemed to coincide with the club producing a record number of Brownlow Medal winners. Between 1949 and 1980, it produced the Best and Fairest winner an amazing 8 times.
By the 1980s, the combination of poor performances and a name that didn't seem to be inspiring a new generation of followers had the Swans facing extinction. In 1982, the club moved to Sydney; believing it would ensure its viability for years to come. Both on and off the field, the Swans struggled, but it did produce the Brownlow Medal winner a further 6 times to become the all time leader in the Brownlow Medal stakes. With 14 Brownload Medals, Swans players have taken home the highest individual accolade almost twice as many times as those from Essendon and more than three times as many as from Carlton – the two clubs that have won the most premierships.
The Swans' time in Sydney could be characterised with an obsession with full forwards to the detriment of overall team success. The first came in the form of a young Warrick Capper. Aside from his spectacular marks, Capper endeared himself to the crowd with long hair and an intellectual mastery that had his resembling the lead singer of an 80s glam rock band. This potential was later realized when he was cast as a brain dead prisoner in the 93 movie, The Fortress.
Unfortunately, Capper was later poached by the Gold Coast based Brisbane Bears in the hope he could weave his magic on the Gold Coast the same way he did in Sydney (he couldn’t). Without their star full forward, Sydney siders couldn’t see the point of football and the SCG emptied once more.
In 1995, the Swans went for a different type of full forward in the form of Tony Lockett; one of the toughest and dirtiest players of the modern era. Prior to being recruited, Lockett had a particularly hostile relationship with Sydney. The hostility started in 1993 when Swans player persuaded a pig farmer to smuggle a piglet into the SCG with Lockett’s nickname of Plugga written on the side. Although not at the ground, Lockett was watching on TV and vowed to make the Swans pay. The following year, he put an elbow into the nose of Swan’s defender Peter Caven who was bravely running back with eyes on the ball. Caven’s nose was smashed and he missed 12 weeks of football. While Caven was being carted off to hospital, Lockett went on to kick 11 goals as the Saint’s made up a 51 point deficit at ¾ time. (Caven would get some sort of revenge when he would later go on TV to smash a Lockett effigy with a baseball bat.) Ironically, the following year Caven and Lockett were team mates.
Despite being a loner and somewhat offside with his team mates, Lockett proved to be a huge drawcard as he went on to break the league’s all time goal kicking record. He also inspired the song, "There's only one Tony Lockett"
After Lockett's retirement, new coach Paul Roos introduced a "no dickheads" policy in the hope that a team first ethic would take the Swans to the elusive premiership. In addition, the Swans privately referred to themselves as Bloods and developed a code of conduct for what the Bloods stood for. As journalist Peter Lalor wrote in 2005:
While the Bloods' culture was great for team identity, it lacked a public face to win over the crowds. For this face, the Swans went hunting for another criminal style bad boy to personify its image. This came in the form of Big Bad Bustling Barry Hall, (or Bazza for short.) Like Lockett, Bazza pulled in the fans and in 2005, helped the Swans win their first premiership in over 70 years. Once he retired, however, crowds fell away once more. Not even a second Sydney premiership in 2012 could give the club confidence that fans would stay in the absence of a star full forewad.
To solve the problem, in 2013, the marketing department broke the fabled "no dickheads" policy to recruit Adelaide’s Kurt Tippet, who was a classic dickhead in the sense he was always out for himself. At Adelaide, Tippet had negotiated to have his much of his salary paid outside of the salary cap because it was so high above his worth that it broke the Crows' renumeration model. Furthermore, for his last contract, he had a secret clause inserted that required he be traded to the club of his choice once the contract was complete. This reduced the Crows power to broker a fair trade. Although appreciating Tippet was a dick, the Swans just saw a full foreward they could get on the cheap. It was a decision that ultimately resulted in Sydney suffering a trade ban for two years. Furthermore, after allegedly being told he needed to work harder to get a game, Tippet decided to "retire due to injury" in 2017. Despite retiring, the Swans had to keep paying out Tippet's 7 figure contract until 2019.
With Tippet proving to be nothing but a soft ruckman that would go foreward, in 2014, the marketing department targeted Lance Franklin on a ridiculous 9 year deal that would see him on an income of $1 million a year as a 36-year-old. The recruitment resulted in the AFL stripping the Swans of their Cost of Living Allowance that was designed to compensate players for living in a city with a higher cost of living. Furthermore, a lack of salary cap space forced the club to lose players, including future Brownlow Medal winner Tom Mitchell.
Once more, the a glamour full forward proved successful in pulling in the fans even though he did little to bring home a premiership. For the Swans, none of that mattered because in Sydney, the individual is always more important than the team.
Roy Morgan research
Sydney Swans supporters are:
2001 when compared to other Australians
2004 when compared to other AFL supporters
2006 when compared to other AFL supporters