Dane Swan, a 2024 inductee in the Australian Football Hall of Fame. Pictures: AFL Photos

A LOCKED date on his calendar is the single thing that Dane Swan cherishes most of all from his time in football.

The prolific Collingwood midfielder enters the Australian Football Hall of Fame this week with a litany of honours to his name from his time at the top – Brownlow Medallist, triple Copeland Trophy winner, five-time All Australian in five consecutive seasons from 2009 to 2013 and, of course, key member of the 2010 Magpies' premiership side.

HALL OF FAME Check out the inductees, Legends and more

At his peak, he was an extraordinary ball-winner and gathered at least 30 possessions or more in a mind-boggling 108 games from his 258-match career, constantly winning contests in packs, marking well for his height, gathering loose balls seemingly at will, kicking key goals and powering up and down the ground in between quick stints on the bench to rest and re-energise.

He didn't look like a finely-tuned athlete but he was always where the ball was, and would usually win it.

He was a darling of the Magpie fans and always remained a knockabout who would find a good time with some like-minded team mates, and those friendships so many years on from a flag are what made it all worthwhile.


"I loved playing for Collingwood. Playing for a big club in big games and having success and having so many fans support you was just the best job anyone could ever have. I'll never have a job that good again in my life, but I don't walk around saying, 'I'm a Brownlow medallist' or saying, 'I won this or I did that," Swan smiles when asked of his time in the black and white stripes.

"Footy has given me friends that I will have until I drop off the face of the earth.

"The best thing for me about my time in footy is that there's a catch up that is booked for the first Saturday in December every year, and everyone from our era knows that's the date we keep free.

"Everyone – players, coaches, staff – all make the effort to get there with very few ever missing and the same jokes get told and the same people get picked on every year. The replay is on for a while, until we sack it for the races, and I know that the first thing I do at the start of every year is make sure I've got nothing that clashes with the first Saturday in December."

While Swan had outstanding pedigree, he wasn't one of those dominant juniors who was pre-ordained for success at the elite level, perhaps because of his shape but more definitely because of an attitude he admits was horrendous at times when in junior ranks, and occasionally senior ranks too.

Father Bill once held the VFA games record in a 302-game career that netted him four premierships and two Liston Medals. But, like many a son, that didn't mean dad always knew what he was talking about when it came to footy.

"It probably sounds amazing, but the first best and fairest I ever won at any level of footy was when I won my first at Collingwood," he says.

"I was never in the major talent squads and I was never one of those kids dominating everything as a junior.

"I didn't have a good attitude a lot of the time because it was important to me to have fun with my mates out at Westmeadows."

Swan was the last person put on the Calder Cannons list as a bottom-ager at TAC Cup level, but made his way into the team, although he did spend some time out of the side through the 2001 year when his attitude didn't align with what coach Rob Hyde (a former Collingwood best and fairest winner) wanted from him.

But the three best games Swan played for the season were the three finals in which he averaged more than 30 touches, all played on the MCG, which got him noticed by the Magpies.

Not a single other club interviewed Swan before the draft, he wasn't invited to the Draft Camp for physical tryouts and certainly wasn't invited along to attend the draft itself. He was chosen with the Magpies' fourth pick overall, way down at No.58 and behind the likes of Luke Hodge, Chris Judd, Jimmy Bartel, Nick Dal Santo, James Kelly, Steve Johnson, Mitchell and a certain Gary Ablett jnr who were all called before him.

As he was on his Schoolies trip, he didn't even watch the draft, finding out later he would be heading to Collingwood to unite with Mick Malthouse, the pivotal figure in a career that now finishes with induction to the Hall of Fame.

"Mick is the biggest single influence on my career, outside of my parents. He showed faith in me when he could have tossed me out, and he's the reason I achieved what I did, alongside my two best mates in Ben Johnson and Chris Tarrant," he says.

Swan didn't play a single senior game in his first year at the Pies, falling to the Williamstown reserves' bench at one point when he was late for a game, and played just three in his second year when he found late-night trouble at the end of a season, and heavy negative publicity around a court case.

"I got into trouble and I got called into the club with my manager and my dad and I sat there and listened to all the things I wasn't doing properly and all the things that were reasons why my career could be over at that point, after three games before it had even really started," he recalls.

"Mick spoke last, and he said he wasn't going to end my career because of a really bad mistake and getting myself into trouble, perhaps because he had the same background as me as a kid. But he said it was time I repaid his faith and proved whether I could be a player or not.

"From there, he played me in defence to teach me about the ball coming at me and guarding a man, and he played me up forward to teach me about finding space there, and then he gave me chances in the midfield to be a key player."

Johnson would run with Swan at every session, driving him to improve his tank while Tarrant, famously a beast in the gym, would demand that Swan lift weights alongside him at every indoors session.

"Benny and Taz were two of my best mates, along with Dids (Alan Didak), and they said they weren't going to let me fall out of the club without finding what my best was and they absolutely drove me and tore into me non-stop for an entire summer," he says. "Johnno doing all the running with me and screaming at me the whole time to be better and Taz making me do all the weights with him, no matter how tired I might be.

"With my attitude, I probably wasn't going to listen to guys like Bucks (Nathan Buckley) or Jimmy (Clement) or the other leaders, but I did it with those guys because they were my mates and I knew they were trying to help me."

After 13 and 14 games respectively in 2004 and 2005, he would be a regular player from 2006 and never looked back from there as the Magpies built towards a premiership.

"I was a bit fortunate at the start that the team was rebuilding and I was certainly given games in my first 20 or 30 games. But once I was in the team, I wanted to play well.

"You're playing on the MCG in front of big crowds against Carlton or Essendon, so why wouldn't you want to play well? And I wanted to be best on ground every time I played, even if it didn't look like that at times. If I had 30 touches, I wanted 31 and then 32 and if I had one goal, I wanted another goal."

At the peak of the Magpies' performances through 2009-11, they would win 58 of 75 games, invariably with Swan at the forefront. During those three seasons, he won two best and fairests, three All Australians and a Brownlow Medal, and only Geelong could stand alongside them.

"Those three years felt like it went by in about six weeks," he says.

"We are at a big club, playing well and winning big games and everything is just so much fun.

"Footy is so much better when you are winning games and you felt like you are the king of footy at this time."

While he would always retain a healthy disdain for authority, kept the media at a very comfortable arm's length and ensured he still had a good time whenever he had a 'free evening', Swan's love for his fans was, and remains, truly real.

"Pressure didn't worry me, because it's just a game we are playing. But I got a great lift from the Collingwood people all through my career and they are still incredibly good to me. I love it whenever I still see a (number) 36 somewhere, and as that team started to break up, there was less fun and it became much more of a grind."

Swan would famously joke at the time that all his friends were getting sacked once Malthouse left the role, and Nathan Buckley began to recast the team for its next tilt at a flag.

Swan would keep driving relentlessly for several more years and respected the coach's right to change the feel at the Magpies, even if those changes were hard for him.

"I have a very good relationship with Bucks and we are friends. He was a fantastic player and once he was the coach, he had to do it how he saw it, which I respected. I said to his face that he sacked all my friends, but he kept playing me and the major issue for me was that it was less fun as we were coming down the ladder and losing a lot more games."

There was less light at the end of the tunnel as he would age, wondering if success could come again, but the end came instantaneously at the SCG in the first minutes of the opening round of the 2016 season, with a devastating foot injury after an innocuous first contest for the ball.

"I went over on my foot and I thought, 'geez that's hurt a lot'," he remembers. "Down in the rooms about 20 minutes later, it's blown up unbelievably with two tennis balls on either side and I'm thinking, 'this can't be good.

"The doctor said to me there's lots of delicate stuff in the foot and as long as it's not a Lisfranc injury, you'll be ok."

It was the Lisfranc, and his career was done just like that. No gutsy return or beloved farewell game. A hobble to the rooms in severe pain at an away game far from the MCG was how it ended.

"Collingwood offered me another year if I wanted to try and come back, but I knew I would be coming from so far back, particularly as a player who needed power. And I never wanted to be one of those players where they said you should have retired because you played on too long. So I retired."

While he's still famously matter of fact and carries no airs or graces, when he talks of the finish to his career being so sudden, it is still shocking to think that he was instantly gone after such a spectacularly dominant period across ten full seasons in the busiest area of the ground.

"It could have been all over for me before it started if Mick didn't back me, and I had one really big injury at 32, when plenty of guys have a big injury that ends it for them at 20 or 21. So I've got nothing to complain about after a great time playing footy.

"Getting inducted into the Hall of Fame ties a great ribbon on my career, years after my last game, when you're thinking that there is never anything that is ever going to come your way again. I'm really honoured to be here and getting this, because it belongs to so many people and not just me," he adds with great sincerity.

When asked the usual footy card questions about opponents and memories, teammates and glories, Scott Pendlebury and Buckley are Swan's clear stand out teammates in Magpie colours, while the premiership is all that matters.

"We only have a reunion in December every year because we achieved something together, not because of any individual awards. But we are all just waiting for Pendles to retire some time in the next five or 10 years, so he can have a proper celebration with us."

Ablett jnr and Judd are clearly on the podium of the greats he went head to head against, while he graciously credits Cameron Ling as the tagger who gave him the most grief and perhaps won more of their battles.

"Ablett and Judd will probably both be Legends and any time you were in the same conversation with them, I knew I was going ok," he says.

"Geelong were a great team in my time when we were good and whenever we'd come up against the Cats, I'd see Ling before the start of the game and I'd be hoping he’d go and stand next to Pendles."

Adam Goodes was a marvel with his combination of size and running power as a tall midfielder, while the one time Lance Franklin came into a centre bounce in a match against the Magpies, Swan immediately took himself off the ball and headed to the forward pocket.

"I looked up one day and he's in the middle and I'm thinking, 'What the hell are you doing here?'. The ball is bounced and within three steps for me, he's already at the wing chasing it. So I just went down the forwards and waited till he stopped playing in the middle," he laughs.

Swan still keeps a close eye on the Magpies and always has time for a photo or a quick chat with a starstruck Pies' fan, but a hectic life these days is centred around partner Taylor, son Tate, 3, and twin one-year-old girls Sage and Scout.

"I couldn't be further away these days from being a full time footballer," he laughs again easily.

"I'm deep in the trenches these days with three kids under three, but when you see your children do something for the first time, or you see them smile when they're happy, that's as good as anything that can happen to you.

As he notes philosophically, Swan's famous love of an evening out and his ability to not get weighed down by footy is a reason why he's now in the fortunate position of shepherding his young family into the world.

The Pies suffered a heart-breaking five-point loss to Geelong in the 2007 preliminary final in what would be both Buckley's and Clement's final senior match. As a devastated club sought to pick up the pieces that night of a shattered season and players openly wept in the rooms over a chance that seemed so close, Swan reminded himself it was only game of footy after all, and headed out for the night.

That was the night he would meet his American partner Taylor Wilson and she and his parents Bill and Deirdre, along with a few Collingwood mates, will be front and centre on his table at his induction on Thursday.

"I tried to stay the same after a big win or a big loss because everything happens for a reason," he says.

"I met Taylor the night we lost the 2007 preliminary final, and she always tells me she's the reason I'm any good because I won my first best and fairest the next season after I started going out with her, and all the All Australians came after I met her.

"This is the last big thing that will happen for me in footy so I want to thank her, thank my family, and thank everyone that helped me." 

Dane Swan

258 games for Collingwood, 211 goals
2010 Premiership
2011 Brownlow Medal
2008, 2009, 2010 best and fairest
2010 Jim Stynes Medal
2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 All Australian