NOT many fifth-year players coming off a career-best 2019 campaign would have been anxious about the first day of pre-season training.

Then again, there weren't many who experienced the off-season turmoil of Sydney forward Tom Papley.

The 23-year-old took a massive step in his career last season, kicking 37 goals without missing a game for the Swans, and finished fourth in the Bob Skilton Medal behind winner Dane Rampe, George Hewett and Luke Parker.

You can imagine the shock then, when the speedster requested a move back to Victoria ahead of the Telstra AFL Trade Period, despite the fact that he's contracted until the end of 2023.

He looked headed to Carlton, but with the Swans stuck in a battle to acquire wantaway Essendon star Joe Daniher - one they lost - Papley found himself doing a U-turn back to the harbour city.

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Papley told AFL.com.au that his reasons for the trade request will remain private, but it was a gut-wrenching time.

"I was struggling a little bit with some family stuff, which I don't really need to go into," he said.

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"I love the club, I love 'Horse' (John Longmire) and love all the boys.

"I just thought that it was the best thing for me at the time.

"It was pretty tough telling the captains and 'Horse', but that's what you have to do.

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"They've given me the chance to play in the AFL, so asking to walk away was an extremely hard decision.

"But I'm here now and I'm committed."

Back in training with the Swans during their pre-season camp in Coffs Harbour

Papley might have been hoping for a move to the Blues, but he was always prepared to remain a Swan.

"It's a business and I was aware that it might not happen, the club told me they'd try but it had to get the best deal for both parties," he said.

"I was disappointed at the time, but I could be doing worse things, I'm playing AFL footy.

"It was hard, but I've just got to get on with it."

The lively forward, who is a barometer for the Swans and is vital to the team's plans to get back to finals action next year, said Longmire has been a calming influence over the past few weeks.

"He just told me to keep being myself, that I'm a good player and good person to have around the club with my energy," he said.

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Always one of Sydney's most effervescent characters on and off the field, Papley said he wasn't sure how he would be welcomed when the players returned after their summer break.

"I was pretty anxious but I'm starting to feel a bit more comfortable now," he said.

"I think the real banter is yet to come, but that’s all part of it, the boys got around me which was really good."

Tom Papley has set his sights on becoming one of the best small forwards in the AFL. Picture: AFL Photos

While Papley is adamant that he's committed to the Swans for 2020, there are still plenty of question marks about his future at the club beyond next year.

"I haven't thought about it at all to be honest, I'm just taking it day by day," he said.

"I want to do everything I can now to make us better and make myself a better player.

"I just want to win."

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His elevation into the Sydney leadership group last year came as a surprise to some as the club introduced some youth to the structure, and after the events of the past couple of months, Papley isn't sure where he stands going forward.

"The players' vote will determine that, but I think last season it really helped me," he said.

He was unlucky not to make last season's Virgin AFL All Australian squad, but while he spent more time in the midfield in 2019 and gave the Swans a real spark up the ground, he doesn't see his future on the ball.

"I wouldn't mind being regarded as one of the best small forwards in the League," he said.

"Charlie Cameron is at the top of the list right now and Eddie Betts has been the best for the last 10 years, so I wouldn't mind creating my own reputation.

"I can't do the special, freak things they can do, but I think I can be a really good small forward for the next five to eight years."