PREMIERSHIP heroes Michael O'Loughlin, Tadhg Kennelly and Lewis Roberts-Thomson believe the Sydney Swans' 2005 premiership helped change the face of football in New South Wales.
The trio helped break a 72-year flag drought when the Swans beat West Coast by four points almost a decade ago, and say it was reward for the club, its players and the supporters who had suffered plenty of pain since South Melbourne moved north for the 1982 season.
O'Loughlin, a recent AFL Hall of Fame inductee, said the change he has seen in Sydney's football landscape since arriving from Adelaide for the 1995 season was phenomenal.
"It was huge. There's kids wearing their Swans hats around their neighbourhoods, and that didn't happen 20 years ago," O'Loughlin said on Tuesday.
"It was all worth it, it was a pretty significant thing.
"I think as a player we look back on our time here pretty proud. The club has gone on strength to strength; to be a little part of that, for us, is a feather in the cap."
Kennelly, who like O'Loughlin is still involved in footy in his adopted city, believed the 2005 flag, following on from the Brisbane Lions triple-premiership success from 2001-2003, helped transform the code in the northern states.
"For the promotion of the game and the betterment of the game, it's been incredible what the Swans have been able to achieve," Kennelly said.
NSW local Roberts-Thomson grew up playing rugby union like most of his peers at school, and was also proud to be a part of something special at the Swans.
"Growing up, Swans supporters were few and far between, but now AFL is in everyone's conversations, so it's wonderful the support that's out there," Roberts-Thomson said.
The Swans will recognise the 2005 premiership team at a function at Friday night's clash with Richmond at the SCG, and Kennelly said the occasion was a great chance to look back on a significant day in the club's history.
"They're memories that you never forget really, it's why you play football," Kennelly said.
"To be able to celebrate something, it's why you play football, to win premierships.
"Yes, there's the individual accolades but it’s the team-orientated game we've been involved in, it's instilled in all of us, and to do it at the highest level is great."
The players will take the 2005 premiership cup on a lap of honour at half-time of the Swans Tigers clash, in what will be an emotional night for the Bloods' fans.
2005 coach Paul Roos, and almost the entire team will be present Friday night, with now-St Kilda defender Sean Dempster the only confirmed absentee. According to Kennelly, the reunion has been a long time coming.
"We actually wanted a five-year one but the club wasn't too happy with that," Kennelly said.
"I'm looking forward to looking back at how much hair I had and how agile and quick I was."
O'Loughlin said the manic nature of footy meant that even the greatest achievements rarely got the attention they deserved while players are mid-career. A decade on, he knows how special Friday night's festivities will be.
"The guys who have moved interstate with work or whatever, it's going to be great to see their faces again and reminisce a little bit," O'Loughlin said.
"To present the cup to the fans is going to be pretty special, but I think to be able to catch up with my mates, to me, that’s the ultimate, and I just can't wait for the weekend to come."