SYDNEY'S shock pre-season captaincy change took the players by surprise, but star defender Dane Rampe believes Josh Kennedy is the "perfect option" to lead the club.
Former co-captains Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack stepped down from their roles after consultation with senior coach John Longmire during their off-season break, with three-time club champion Kennedy announced as the sole skipper in December.
The Swans usually finalise their leadership structure just before the pre-season competition gets underway, so even after Kennedy's amazing 2016 season in which he won his second straight Bob Skilton medal, and the inaugural Gary Ayres Award as the player of the finals, Rampe told AFL.com.au that the switch came out of the blue.
"Yeah it did, to be honest, but the time couldn't be any better for 'Joey' (Kennedy) to come in," he said.
"Nothing against the other boys, they've led us magnificently, but he's so well credentialed and so well respected, it just seemed like the perfect option.
"He's the most consistent player I've ever played with, and I think first and foremost that's what he's got to worry about, but knowing his nature, he's going to want to bite off as much as he can.
"As we keep telling him, we voted him in on the back of the things he's done consistently in the six or seven years he's been here, week in, week out.
"He's been voicing his opinion a lot more since he's taken on the role and we're all better for it because his knowledge of the game is pretty impressive."
Kennedy wasn't the only man to receive a new title in the reshuffle, with Rampe named vice-captain alongside fellow 2016 All Australians Luke Parker and Dan Hannebery.
Sydney's 2016 All Australians Lance Franklin, Dane Rampe, Luke Parker, Dan Hannebery and Josh Kennedy
It continued a remarkable rise for the 26-year-old who finished fifth in the best and fairest last year, and was ranked second in the league for rebound 50s behind Greater Western Sydney star Heath Shaw, in his fourth season in the competition.
Rampe's consistency has been the hallmark of his short career. He's missed just two games since his debut in round one 2013, has played 97 straight as part of the Swans' back six, and sees his elevation to the vice-captaincy as a reward for plenty of hard work.
"It meant a lot to me, and it's good to know the boys hold me in that regard," he said.
"I guess it'll change things for me in some ways but I'm going to let that happen naturally. First and foremost I've just got to do what I've got to do, and that’s to perform well on game day.
"That's the most important thing, there's a bit of added responsibility but I'm really looking forward to the challenge.
"It makes it a lot easier when you're in such a good environment here in Sydney and you've got such an exciting group behind you."
The Swans won 17 games on their way to the minor premiership last year, and while the likes of Kennedy, Parker, Hannebery and gun forward Lance Franklin grabbed most of the spotlight, a lot of the team's success was built on a rock-solid backline.
Longmire's side conceded just 66.7 points per game during regular season and led the competition in rebound 50s, with Rampe named in the team of the year, veteran Heath Grundy unlucky to miss out, and teenager Callum Mills being named the NAB Rising Star after a brilliant debut season across half back.
With that strong defensive group all returning for this season, apart from the retired Ted Richards who wasn't a factor in the senior side during the second half of 2016, Rampe realizes his backline has the opportunity to build on last year's success, and with more games together will only get better.
"It's a really exciting group to be a part of and I take great pride in the fact that we were the stingiest defence in the League last year," he said.
"We've got a great mix of experience and youth coming through - I mean, our oldest player is 'Reg' (Grundy) and he probably had a career-best year last season.
"Myself, Nick Smith and 'Reg' are the older blokes, and we're only in our mid to late 20s. Then we've had the younger guys like Aliir (Aliir), 'Millsy' (Callum Mills) and 'Jonesy' (Zak Jones) come in and play some outstanding footy.
"Hopefully we can turn it into something pretty special over the next few years."