Justin McInerney after the round one match between Collingwood and Sydney at the MCG, March 15, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

AN INCREASED versatility in Sydney's playing group has been a key driver to its 10-1 record heading into the mid-season bye.

One of those versatile players is Justin McInerney, who has regularly played multiple roles in-game for the Swans and has quietly had a significant impact.

"He's probably flown under the radar a bit, and he's played some important games for us in the first half of the year," Sydney coach John Longmire said of McInerney after its 14-point win over the Western Bulldogs on Thursday.

"We can put him anywhere, half-forward, inside, wing, half-back, and we did that again tonight. He's able to play in any of those roles and he's able to do it at a good level, and he's probably one that's just flying under the radar a little bit, but he's been really important for us in this block of footy.

Justin McInerney tackles Lachie Bramble during the round 11 match between Western Bulldogs and Sydney at Marvel Stadium, May 23, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

"We wanted to have some flexibility in our team, and I think that's a positive. If things aren't working, you can change it and try to find a different mix."

Averaging a career-best 20.3 disposals, 5.8 marks, and 6.2 score involvements, the increased responsibility this year is something McInerney is relishing.

"I enjoy playing inside, and on the wing, which has been a bit different this year, playing inside," McInerney said after Thursday's win.

"I think it's nice just to do different things that the team needs, and I feel like I take that in my stride, being able to play all different positions."

The 23-year-old's typical role on the wing is one of increasing importance amidst Sydney's hard-running, neat kicking style of play, with McInerney often complementing Errol Gulden on the opposing wing.

"I think Errol makes it look pretty easy when he runs around," McInerney said with a laugh.


"It's more just when the ball comes your way, impacting has been a strength of his, which I like to work on with him as well, so he's been really good for me… just being composed when I have the ball, I think that's one of my strengths. So, when I get it, just allow the game to come to me, settle things down a bit."

Early in the clash against the Dogs, the Swans were struggling to exit their defensive half, but some key possessions from McInerney on the defensive flank allowed the visitors a modicum of control in the game.

From there, Sydney was able to establish its own game, generating scores off the back of that.

Justin McInerney during the round 11 match between Western Bulldogs and Sydney at Marvel Stadium, May 23, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

It is a position that doesn't necessarily amass large numbers on the stats sheet, but structurally offers so much.

When asked how much unrewarded running he does, McInerney responded with a chuckle.

"Probably the most in the team I reckon… Blokes like Chad (Warner) and Errol (Gulden) and 'Heens' (Isaac Heeney), they get on the end of it, I just do things behind the scenes for them," McInerney laughed.

"I get rewarded behind the scenes," he quickly clarified.

But the key driver for McInerney, and the Swans, this year is playing a role that contributes to the team most effectively as the side looks to win its first flag since 2012.

"We don't want to get too ahead of ourselves. I think we put ourselves in the best position to (challenge for a flag), which is obviously the main goal," McInerney said.

"You look at Isaac (Heeney) being forward for all his time. He obviously wanted to play inside those years, but his role was to play forward. And I think that's the main message of the group. Just play your role and help the team get better."