From the moment Lance Franklin signed with the Swans in October last year, expectations were incredibly high. Following a poor 1-3 start, those expectations were seemingly being met by a 12-game winning streak and a path all the way to the minor premiership. Unfortunately, most of that will be forgotten after the manner of their Grand Final capitulation against Hawthorn.
John Longmire is an old-fashioned, straight-shooting coach who places high demands on his players. That's what would have made the Grand Final defeat so galling and it's hard to argue he wasn't totally out-manoeuvred by Alastair Clarkson. But there was plenty to like about his overall performance this year. Although very quiet on Saturday, young trio Luke Parker, Harry Cunningham and Jake Lloyd have thrived under his tutelage. Longmire, who is contracted until the end of 2017, will already be thinking about 2015.
Again, a lot of what worked so well during the year was then exposed in the Grand Final. But the running capacity of Cunningham, Lewis Jetta and Gary Rohan proved next to impossible for everyone bar the Hawks to shut down.
The tall forward line of Franklin, Kurt Tippett, Adam Goodes and Sam Reid proved extremely effective. It was also versatile, with Tippett and Reid capable of helping out in the ruck, while the latter could also shift into defence.
At the start of the season, Ryan O'Keefe, Tom Mitchell and Lewis Roberts-Thomson would have been in most people's best Swans line-up. By season's end they had just 15 senior games between them. Mitchell was sidelined by injury for much of the year, while the other two have retired, and Longmire's succession planning is well underway.
The biggest failure, clearly, was the Grand Final performance. Lewis Jetta, Parker, Rohan, Reid, Dane Rampe, Parker and many others all failed to handle the occasion, while their leaders were next to non-existent.
The Swans need some help for Mike Pyke in the ruck. He battled manfully, but the club didn't really cope with Shane Mumford's departure.
The jury is still out on Tippett's recruitment. Curtailed by repeated knee injuries, Tippett has shown he can kick goals even while being held, booting a very healthy 69 through 26 games. But he hasn't demonstrated he can take over games. He also needs to improve in the ruck if he is to remain Pyke's back-up, but that also comes with associated injury risks.
MVP: Lance Franklin
Honourable mentions go to Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker, but without Franklin, it's highly unlikely the Swans would have finished on top of the ladder. His efforts almost singlehandedly got them over the line against Port Adelaide and Richmond, among other games, while his 67 goals earned him a third Coleman Medal.
Surprise packet: Luke Parker
Parker had spent three years establishing himself in the side and was a better-than-average AFL player, but he took that to a whole new level this season. Showing remarkable poise for a 21-year-old, he proved a clearance and tackling beast and could also shift forward effortlessly to take a big mark or kick a crunch goal.
Best rookie/first-year player: Jake Lloyd
Entering this season, Lloyd was hopeful of earning his AFL debut, but had plenty of players ahead of him in the Swans' midfield pecking order. He kept knocking down the door and was elevated onto the senior list ahead of the round five clash with Fremantle. That proved the start of a remarkable season. Slightly built at 180cm and 77kg, Lloyd played 21 consecutive games.
Disappointment: Ryan O'Keefe
Starting the year talking confidently about extending his career for some time yet, O'Keefe was met head-on by Father Time in 2014. He played the first four games of the year, but was then left in Cunningham, Parker and Lloyd's wake. One of the Swans' all-time champions, he played out the year in the reserves and helped guide some of the club's youngster before announcing his retirement.
Best win: 26-point win over Port Adelaide, round 20, Adelaide Oval
The Swans played some superb football during the year and there were a number of contenders in this section, but for sheer gritty determination and will to win, the road victory at a hostile Adelaide Oval is hard to top. With Franklin and Tippett largely contained, it took a team effort to get over the line and stay in contention for top spot on the ladder.
The round one loss to GWS was less than ideal and Alex Johnson's ongoing knee problems are also very disappointing. But they had nothing on the utter devastation felt at full-time in the Grand Final. The Swans just didn't turn up, in a performance that will haunt them for some time yet.
What needs to improve?
Grand Final day apart, the Swans appear to have the tools in place to remain more than competitive. But there are areas of concern which were exposed in the decider. They proved a little one-dimensional when their game-plan was dissected, but that was more down to attitude than anything else. They should have little need for extra motivation getting their heads right next time.
Retirements: Ryan O'Keefe, Lewis Roberts-Thomson
Those two club greats have called it a day, while Rhyce Shaw and Goodes are weighing up their futures. Considering the sting of their Grand Final horror show, both may decide to box on.
Delistings: (possible) Tommy Walsh, Jordan Lockyer
Walsh played some decent football in the reserves at the end of the season, but is out of contract and unlikely to stay at the club. Drafted back in 2011, Lockyer wasn't able to convert a solid pre-season into an AFL debut and could be under pressure to retain his place on the list.
Trades/free agents: (possible) Tom Mitchell, Nick Malceski, Tim Membrey
Mitchell is very much a required player, is contracted until the end of 2016 and is expected to stay in Sydney, but a lack of opportunities could tempt him to at least look elsewhere. Malceski is certainly exploring his free agency options, while Membrey made his AFL debut but could struggle to find a regular place in the forward line in the short term.
What they need
Tom Derickx was serviceable until getting injured, but Pyke could still do with some further help in the ruck. Key defenders Ted Richards and Heath Grundy have also been outstanding servants, but could clearly do with some assistance down back.