IT WASN'T that long ago, 2015 in fact, that Sydney had one of the most enviable midfields of the competition.

Dan Hannebery was a Virgin Australia AFL All Australian (2013, 2015, 2016), so was Josh Kennedy (2012, 2014, 2016), Tom Mitchell and Luke Parker were rising, there was outside speed in Lewis Jetta, not to mention the experienced hands of Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh, a champion called Adam Goodes, plus youngsters in Isaac Heeney and Zak Jones to lead the next wave.

01:14 Mins
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Match Previews R9: St Kilda v Sydney

Sportsbet's Nathan Brown and Matthew Richardson preview the Pride Game between the Saints and Swans at the Gabba

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Fast forward to 2020 and the outlook is vastly different.

Mitchell, now a Brownlow medallist, is at Hawthorn, Jones is coming of age at today's opponent St Kilda, Jetta's a premiership player for West Coast, Jack, McVeigh, Goodes are all gone, Heeney is out for the season, and Kennedy is a 32yo in a warrior's battered body.

Enter Ollie Florent and James Rowbottom.

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'This is where I play my best footy': Ollie's new role

Sydney young gun Oliver Florent speaks to AFL.com.au about spending more time in the midfield, and heading into the Queensland hub

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As the Swans rebuild their list, they are pinning their hopes on their No.11 pick from the 2016 NAB AFL Draft and their pick 25 from the 2018 draft.

Last week against Hawthorn, we saw a glimpse into Sydney's midfield future.

The Hawks led the contested possession count by 18 at half-time. But Sydney won the second-half contested-ball count by six and turned the game around.

Florent, 22, ended the game with 20 touches, nine of them contested possessions. In the final quarter, he had nine disposals with six of them contested. Rowbottom had 18 possessions for the game, 11 contested. 

"I'm getting comfortable in there now," Florent told AFL.com.au.

James Rowbottom in action against the Hawks in round eight. Picture: Getty Images

"I'm working really closely with Jarrad McVeigh, he's a huge help for me. Dean Cox as well. Those two guys give me the information and feedback I need each week."

Florent has had some other useful teachers, with one of the best contested-ball winners of the past decade in Kennedy and Parker also offering guidance.

"Playing with those two guys is pretty special, and they really push us young guys to the next level. I try to learn as much off them as I can."

Florent has been in career-best form this season, which is his fourth at the top level.

The 185cm speedster is averaging more than 18 touches a game, just one possession below his most-prolific year of 2019, despite the shortened quarters this season.

He is averaging a career-high 3.6 clearances a game, including seven clearances and a career-high five centre-clearances against Essendon in round two.

Also, no player has sent the ball into their forward 50 more this season, with Florent's 35 inside 50s the equal most in the League along with Port Adelaide's Travis Boak.

"I'm really excited to see the future, and hopefully we're heading the right direction," Florent said

As for the past, the Swans will get a close look at Jones when they take on St Kilda at the Gabba in the annual Pride Game. They will also be noting that Hannebery is again watching from the sidelines.

The match will be the first time the two teams have played each other in a Pride Game outside of Sydney or Melbourne.