THE PICK that Sydney received in a trade for Dan Hannebery might have helped gobble up some of the points needed to match a bid on highly rated Academy prospect Nick Blakey later that season, but as the Swans prepare for a swift return to finals football this year the more pertinent benefits have perhaps been reaped in the years following.

In an alternate universe, Hannebery – who had three years left to run on a lucrative contract with Sydney when he was traded to St Kilda in October 2018 – would be preparing to face the Saints this weekend. Speculation this week probably would have centred around whether he would re-sign with the Swans later this year.

Instead, he swapped Bondi for Moorabbin where he has played just 13 games in St Kilda colours despite spending nearly three full seasons with the club.

He still remains on the long road to recovery after persistent soft tissue injuries have stalled his return to football this year.

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But while a lot has been made of St Kilda's side of that blockbuster trade, Sydney's ability to use the additional cap space to its advantage in the following years now has its young playing group locked and loaded to feature in the finals once more. It was a plan the club set about executing almost immediately after Hannebery left.

On paper, the draft package Sydney received for Hannebery might not amount to an overwhelming success. Pick No.39 was used to help match the points required to secure Blakey after a bid was lodged at pick No.10, while a future second-round selection was used on Elijah Taylor – a player delisted after just four senior games following a string of off-field indiscretions.

The Saints, for their part, also received pick No.28 alongside Hannebery. They swapped that selection to the Demons, receiving picks No.36 and No.46 in return. Those became Jack Bytel, who is 12 games into a promising career, and Matthew Parker, who was delisted last year after 19 senior appearances.

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But more beneficial for the Swans has been the additional cap space. Needing to clear money from their books for the 2019 season regardless, the club got to work on ensuring Hannebery's estimated $800,000 per year wages – part of a deal that was due to run until 2021 – were divvied up elsewhere.

Tom Papley was the first to get the call. In the weeks after Hannebery departed the club, the star small forward put pen to paper on an extension taking him through until 2023. The additional years added to his contract would prove crucial in Sydney ultimately retaining the lively goalsneak, despite significant interest from Carlton one season later.

Sydney's Tom Papley celebrates a goal against Richmond in round three, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

More extensions were soon to follow. Experienced defensive duo Jake Lloyd and Dane Rampe were both signed to four-year deals, lasting until 2022, when it became apparent that Hannebery was bound for Victoria.

Jordan Dawson (2021), Ollie Florent (2022), Blakey (2022), James Rowbottom (2022), Justin McInerney (2022) and Will Hayward (2024) were next in line to sign highly-valued new contracts in the months afterwards.

While Hannebery's exit by no means directly led to every one of the aforementioned re-signings, the cap relief as a result of his departure was undoubtedly incredibly important.

The young and exciting group of talent locked away after Hannebery left has been crucial to Sydney's remarkable return to the top-eight this season. The club, having gone two years without finals football, hasn't had a three-year September drought since it went eight campaigns without post-season action between 1988-95.

Such a scenario appears unlikely to happen later this season.

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