THE SYDNEY Swans have secured one of their quickest and most versatile players until the end of 2019, re-signing Harry Cunningham on a new three-year deal.
Cunningham was set to come out of contract at the end of this season but re-committed to the Swans last week.
Swans football manager Tom Harley told AFL.com.au Cunningham had helped cover the run-and-carry hole left by the departures of Lewis Jetta (West Coast) and Rhyce Shaw (retired) at the end of last season.
But Harley said Cunningham's speed and ability to rotate between the wing, half-forward, midfield (in attacking and run-with roles) and defence were not the only reasons the Swans were excited to secure him for another three seasons.
"Obviously you need to have some outside speed, and Harry is developing nicely through his career and he's that sort of player," Harley said.
"Outside speed is one of the areas that we see as really important, so the fact he ticks that box is a bonus.
"But Harry is also the ideal character to have around a footy club. He's very diligent, committed to the club and a fantastic young leader in his own right."
Cunningham has rotated primarily between half-forward and the wing this season, where his leg speed has complemented the outstanding stoppage work of Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker, Kieren Jack and Tom Mitchell.
The former rookie has been a senior regular with the Swans since his breakthrough 2014 season, having missed just three games over the past three seasons.
As much as the 22-year-old is part of the Swans' fabric now, he could have been a Giant.
As a Wagga Wagga local, Cunningham was part of Greater Western Sydney's first Academy player intake in 2011.
The Giants pounced on fellow locals such as Josh Bruce, Anthony Miles, Jacob Townsend and Mark Whiley at the end of that year, but overlooked Cunningham, who was snapped up by the Swans at pick No.93 in that season's rookie draft.
Cunningham told AFL.com.au he had not looked back since this career-defining moment.
"I could have been a Giant, but I'm happy where I am," Cunningham said.
"I am absolutely stoked to be able to re-sign and stay here for an extra three years.
"I owe a lot to the Swans and hopefully I can repay their faith over the next three years."
As a New South Welshman, Cunningham is excited by the local talent that the Swans Academy has produced for the club, which in the past three years has included Isaac Heeney, Callum Mills, Brandon Jack, Jack Hiscox and Abe Davis.
Heeney and Mills, in particular, are two of the most exciting youngsters in the competition.
Cunningham says the good work that academy coaches Chris Smith, Michael O'Loughlin and Jared Crouch are doing with local players augured well for the Swans' future.
"It's great that the academy is providing that sort of pathway for young kids to be able to play AFL in a city that's rugby-league based," he said.
"For the academy to be able to produce players like Callum and Isaac, who have just come in and looked like readymade footballers, is a really positive sign.
"Like everyone else they're looking to improve and have an impact on the team week in, week out, but they've been great and I'm really looking forward to their development over the years."
After finishing in the top four over the past four seasons, the Swans were widely tipped to slide down the ladder in 2016.
However, John Longmire's men have so far answered queries about their lack of midfield pace and height in defence to sit third on the ladder after three rounds.
The Swans suffered their first loss of the season last Saturday night against Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval, losing a high-standard contest by 10 points.
Cunningham said the Swans had been "just a little bit off in some little things" against the Crows, but remained buoyant about their 2016 prospects.
"We've got the belief that we're still able to match it with the best sides when we bring our best footy," he said.
"Inside these four walls we've got confidence that whoever gets a game on the weekend is going to play a role for the side.
"It's been a good start to the season, but in saying that we're looking to improve week in week out, starting from this weekend against West Coast.
"We're really looking forward to that."