ON A NIGHT belonging to rookie-list graduate Ben Ronke, victorious Sydney coach John Longmire could not explain his club's extraordinary success on the draft scrapheap.
Ronke's seven-goal, 10-tackle, best-on-ground performance propelled the gritty Swans to an eight-point defeat of Hawthorn at the MCG on Friday night despite them having 23 fewer inside 50s.
Sydney also defied superstar forward Lance 'Buddy' Franklin being out for a third game in a row as it provisionally climbed into fifth place, outside the top four only on percentage.
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The only downside was Luke Parker's report for rough conduct in the last quarter after making contact to Hawk Jarman Impey.
Ronke, a 20-year-old third-gamer, was one of 10 Swans against the Hawks that started their AFL career on the rookie list.
Jake Lloyd was another of them and celebrated his 100th match on the night, while All Australians Dane Rampe and Nick Smith also began the same way.
"We don't get everything right – we make plenty of mistakes – but we've been fortunate that we've had a period that a number of rookies (have excelled)," Longmire told reporters.
"Jake Lloyd was one of the fastest to get to 100 and is an important player for us. We've got our defence – Dane Rampe, Heath Grundy and Nick Smith – and probably all over the ground we've got a fair sprinkling of them.
YOUNG SWAN THE STAR Ronke in seventh Heaven
"It helps if the leaders are strong and Kieren (Jack) came through that system as a leader as well, and it's great to see another one (Ronke) bob up.
"It's an important part of list management strategy and Kinnear (Beatson)'s generally pretty good at picking those ones, which certainly helps, and when they come in they're real competitors."
|First player in VFL/AFL history to kick seven goals and have 10+ tackles||At 20 years and 144 days, the youngest Swan to kick seven goals in a game since Silvio Foschini in round four, 1982|
|The only Swan besides Lance Franklin to kick seven goals since Adam Goodes kicked eight in round 19, 2008||First player to kick seven goals or more at the MCG since Travis Cloke in round 10, 2015|
|Youngest player from any club to kick seven goals since Jeremy Cameron in 2013||First Swan to kick four first-term goals since Barry Hall in 2002|
Franklin's continued absence with a bruised heel has not been as great a headache as many would have tipped.
The likes of Ronke, Will Hayward – who kicked three goals for the third straight match – Tom Papley and reigning club champion Luke Parker have ensured Sydney remained competitive.
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The Swans' odd 1-3 record this year at the SCG has been countered by four wins from as many matches on the road.
"We've just got to keep playing well, with or without Buddy – I haven't spent a heap of time focusing on that," Longmire said.
"We thought he might have been a chance to play this week, but once he was ruled out, Tommy McCartin came in for his first game, and his role was just to compete and jump at the footy.
"Particularly early he was able to do that, bring the ball to ground, and we kept it pretty simple for him, but it will keep evolving, particularly that young group we've got in our front half."