SYDNEY star Callum Mills will miss the first half of this season due to his infamous Mad Monday mishap, but it hasn't stopped the Swans elevating the Academy graduate to the position of sole captain for 2024.
In a sign of how highly rated the midfielder is internally, Mills will lead Sydney on his own when he returns to action, having shared the captaincy with veterans Luke Parker and Dane Rampe since 2022.
The 26-year-old underwent surgery last September after badly damaging the rotator cuff in his left shoulder while wrestling teammate Jacob Konstanty at a post-season function, following the Swans' elimination final loss to Carlton.
Mills is understood to be scheduled to return to John Longmire's side between rounds 10 and 12 at this stage, following a recent consultation with his surgeon, which has him on track to return to action ahead of schedule.
Sydney isn't expected to announce who will lead the club in Mills' absence until closer to the season opener against Melbourne at the SCG on March 7.
The Mad Monday incident left Mills fearing the Swans could strip him of the co-captaincy.
"It runs through your mind when you make mistakes," Mills said.
"But I go back to the conversations I had with 'Horse' (Longmire), and the support I felt from the club, board down, was something that was quite reassuring.
"I think the fact is I'm human and I made a mistake but I'm not going to let it define me and be able to lead the group the best I can."
Sydney has predominantly opted for a co-captaincy model this century, dating back to 2005 when Barry Hall, Brett Kirk and Leo Barry took over from Stuart Maxfield and helped the Swans end a 72-year premiership drought.
Since then, Sydney has only had a sole skipper in 2017 and 2018 when club great Josh Kennedy led the Swans for two years before sharing the responsibility with Parker and Rampe for three more seasons.
Swans coach Longmire backed Mills, saying: "His ability to be able to keep thinking of the team and how can we keep improving, is the thing that stands out.
"In the end, that's the thing that still stands out. We all make mistakes, we all learn.
"The ability for Callum to be able to go on this journey, we think is going to be ultimately in his captaincy a real learning experience.
"We've got absolute confidence that he already has been and will continue to be a fantastic leader for this footy club."
Along with Isaac Heeney, Mills is the poster boy of the Sydney Swans' Academy, collecting an All-Australian blazer, a Bob Skilton Medal and the Rising Star Award across 155 games since being selected at pick No.3 in the 2015 AFL Draft.
Parker (283 games) and Rampe (230 games) remain key figures at the club heading into Longmire's 14th season in charge, but the Swans believe the time is right for Mills to lead the club on his own, despite the injury that left the club extremely disappointed at the time.
While Mills will miss the practice matches against Greater Western Sydney (February 22 at Tramway Oval) and Brisbane (February 29 at Blacktown), as well as the first few months of the season, the New South Welshman turned heads on the club's pre-season camp in Coffs Harbour last week.
Mills will follow in the footsteps of club icons Paul Kelly and Bob Skilton in captaining the Swans while wearing the famous No.14 guernsey.