Nathan Buckley is bullish on Sydney’s hopes ahead of the 2024 season.
The Swans fell to eighth in 2023 off the back of a Grand Final appearance in 2022, but Buckley doesn’t expect that slide to continue in 2024.
The Swans targeted experience in the off-season, adding Brodie Grundy and Taylor Adams via trade as well as James Jordon and Joel Hamling in free agency, and Buckley expects those recruits to make an immediate impact.
Buckley even went as far as to say that he expects the Swans to finish top four and present as Collingwood and Brisbane’s biggest challenger.
“You think they (Sydney) are stacked. Well, I agree,” Buckley said on SEN Breakfast.
“I think Taylor Adams and Brodie Grundy are going to (be big ins). I mean, Sydney was a Grand Final side a couple of years ago.
“I expect them to get back to the top four and quite clearly be a top four side.
“I think they're probably Collingwood and Brisbane's greatest challenger for breaking that Grand Final duo from last year.”
On the inclusion of on-ball trio Adams, Jordon and Grundy in the ruck, Buckley expects Sydney’s midfield to have more grunt in 2024.
He thinks those additions will free up the likes of Luke Parker, Errol Gulden and Chad Warner who can impact on the outside of the contest and in other areas on the ground.
“I think what it'll do is it'll add grunt to the inside,” Buckley said.
“Adams and Grundy come in, they add grunt to the inside and so does Jordon who played nearly exclusively on the wing (for Melbourne), but I reckon he's an inside midfielder.
“Parker becomes now a player who can go out in his retirement years over the next couple of years - play forward, play back, play where he’s needed.
“Gulden and Warner go a little bit maybe a metre or two outside of the in the inside hustle and bustle and can have the ball brought out to them rather than going in and getting it. I think they're better using their legs on the outside.
“I expect them to be a real handful for everyone this year.”
Buckley can also see 20-year-old on-baller Angus Sheldrick joining the midfield rotation after playing just nine games across his first two seasons at the level.
“One to watch too, I love Sheldrick as a player,” Buckley said.
“That young kid, we saw a little glimpse of him. He's still only 20 now, but I think he's going to be a legitimate gun of the competition in the next three or four years.
“I'd expect him to come through.”
But perhaps most of all, Buckley is most confident in the Swans due to the leadership of their coach, John Longmire.
Buckley considers Longmire one of the game’s best leaders as the coach enters his 14th season in the job.
“I think he's one of the most consistent people in footy,” Buckley said.
“That's an important trait of leaders is to be consistent. I've admired the way that he's carried himself.
“They (Sydney) are an ego-less organization and they spread the load, they bring in people who are good at their jobs and they let them do what they're good at.
“I think they're in great hands.”
Sydney begins their 2024 campaign with an Opening Round clash against Melbourne on Thursday, March 7 at the SCG.