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Which rising Swan is set for a big midfield role? It's not Mills

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BLOSSOMING Swan Oliver Florent is primed to be a bigger part of Sydney's centre-bounce set-up this year as John Longmire embraces the club's significant youth movement.

Thirty of the Swans' 45 footballers – almost 70 per cent – will be aged 24 or younger in round one and many of them, including Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills, Florent, Will Hayward and Tom Papley, are integral members of the team.

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They also boast the equal second-most senior debutants (18) in the past three years, behind only Brisbane's 20.

Whether 2016 NAB AFL Rising Star Mills will make the move from a defender into a full-time midfielder is a common talking point at this time of year, but Florent might be the one to watch.

The fleet-footed wingman – one of the inside-outside midfielders Longmire and recruiter Kinnear Beatson targeted in recent years – had only six centre attendances last season.

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Statistics illustrate the leap Florent made from his rookie campaign to last year, with increases in average disposals (16.7, up from 9.8), clearances (1.9, 0.9), rebound 50s (1.5, 0.2), inside 50s (2.4, 1.9) and metres gained (284.5, 163.1).

 

He kicked the match-sealer against the Bulldogs in round four – cheekily and riskily playing on to do so – earned a Rising Star nomination in round 11 and had a six-week streak of 20-plus possessions at one stage.

"Florent will play inside and outside and we need that flexibility, particularly with not being able to control the rotations as much now, so they'll need to be able to adapt," Longmire told AFL.com.au.

"We feel as though those hybrid-type midfielders who can play a number of different roles are important going forward.

"Florent is a genuine hybrid midfielder and we're thrilled with how he's going."

Sydney has made a concerted effort to inject speed into its line-up at the draft, spending first-round picks on Florent and Matthew Ling and introducing rookie goalsneak Ben Ronke.

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However, Longmire said that hadn't come at the expense of bringing in inside midfielders to complement Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker, George Hewett and Heeney.

The newest of those "hybrid" types is James Rowbottom, a second-round choice in last year's draft.

There are options already at the club, too, according to the 2012 premiership coach, including Mills, Florent, speedster Zak Jones and Papley, who will be used as an "impact" player in the middle.

That transition will be important, given Kennedy and Kieren Jack are on the wrong side of 30 and triple All Australian Dan Hannebery is now a Saint.

There's been a major shake-up in list demographics, with the number of 24-and-under Swans in 2013 representing about 55 per cent of the squad, compared to almost 70 per cent this season.

"It is (a high number), but it's counterbalanced by still having some experienced top-end players that help those kids," Longmire said.

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"It's something that's happened for a whole range of reasons. We copped a two-year trade ban … and (the potential recruits in that time would) be into that 28-year-old bracket now, if they were around.

"Would we like to have some more in that older bracket, or the 28-to-30 bracket?

"Yeah, we'd like to, but we're really confident we've got that young group coming through that's good enough to sustain the load and keep playing really good, strong footy for us."