SYDNEY is thinking about the future just as much as its current finals tilt, with emerging midfielder James Rowbottom revealing the club thinks it can already take advantage of an onball brigade built with both inside grunt and outside run.
The Swans have a growing group of young guns capable of starting at centre bounces, adding run and carry from the contests, or offering width from a wing.
Callum Mills and Chad Warner have this season joined Oliver Florent and Rowbottom in taking on a mix of midfield roles, while also learning off onball beasts and co-captains Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker.
"We spoke in pre-season about us having similar attributes to be clean and hard inside the stoppages, but being able to go on a wing and know what to do in time and space," Rowbottom told AFL.com.au.
"We back in our ability to scramble really well around the stoppages and put pressure on the opposition, win the clearances then get away on the outside.
"Being able to rotate those positions between us has been really important to our start to the season, it’s something we see as an advantage."
Rowbottom had a breakout year in 2020, when he played all but one of the Swans’ 17 matches and finished seventh in their best and fairest count.
The 20-year-old has improved on that season, despite missing four games after hyperextending his knee in the round one victory over Brisbane. He is averaging a career-high 19 disposals and 3.5 inside 50s, and sits third in the competition for average tackles with a remarkable 7.3 a game.
Rowbottom is arguably one of the most underrated talents to come out of the famed 2018 NAB AFL Draft and is already looking like a bargain as pick No.25, but he is sure his best is yet to come.
"I just want to get better, I'm probably never going to be satisfied with how I'm playing," Rowbottom said.
"I just want to keep striving to get better and get to the sort of the level that 'Joey' [Kennedy] and 'Parks' have consistently been at for a lot of years."
Rowbottom said that Kennedy and Parker continue to set the standards for the Swans’ onballers, but are also willing to step out of their more familiar roles to give the next generation more responsibility.
This approach has seen Kennedy start several matches on the bench, throwing his teammates into the fire of the first-bounce and the opening minutes of play when the contest is heating up.
The 32-year-old has also spent more time on a wing and has even attended less than half of the centre bounces in some matches this year. Rowbottom has often been the midfielder to take Kennedy’s place in the middle.
"Joey and Parks have been unbelievable this year in knowing when it's their turn to shine and be the superstars that everyone knows they can be, and knowing when it's their job to do a role for the team and let the young boys come through, learn and develop," Rowbottom said.
"They've got an amazing ability to balance those two parts of being a team. Joey has said that his main goal now is to bring as many of us young guys along for the ride like he's had, and he has been unbelievable doing that.
"I've found that playing on them at training, and asking questions while we do, has really helped me especially because they're two bigger bodies so teach me how to play against guys that I can't quite shove out of the way yet."