At 6-3 with a favourable draw to come, are 2021 surprise packets the Sydney Swans a chance to squeeze into the Top 4 come AFL season’s end?

Few predicted the Swans would be in such a healthy position nine rounds into the 2021 season. Things were on an upward trajectory at the Bloods, no doubt. Underpinned by a strong group of kids, the future was bright, but this season was seen as another finals-less campaign to launch for greater success in years to come. And the markets reflected that. Before Round 1, John Longmire’s side were $5 AFL Finals outsiders.

But the Swans have defied predictions and now into $1.45 to finish inside the Top 8. So, what’s their ceiling?

Beating the best

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sydney’s start to the season is who they’ve performed against. The Swans are 3-0 against last year’s preliminary finalists, having knocked off Brisbane, Richmond and Geelong. They pushed the undefeated Melbourne all the way in Round 8 — despite losing by nine points, they are the only side to come within three goals of the Dees all season. The Swans started the season as distant $13 AFL Top 4 hopes, but after nine rounds are into $4.50. Could they get there? A favourable next month suggests they can. With Fremantle, Carlton, St Kilda and Hawthorn to come (all clubs currently outside the Top 8), that figure could well shorten in the coming weeks.

Even spread

A feature of Sydney’s early-season success has been the load spreading amongst its players. This is perhaps best underlined by the fact that no Bloods player is (currently) less than $40 for this year’s Brownlow Medal. Luke Parker ($41 with Palmerbet) and Callum Mills ($51) lead the line for the Swans in this market, but every other player is triple-figures or higher. The same goes for the Coleman Medal market, with only Lance Franklin ($67) under triple figures to take home the goal kicking prize.

Young guns out

Perhaps the only downside to the Swans current predicament is the rapid fall in fortunes of its young stars. Sydney not only received AFL Rising Star nominations for the first three rounds — the first time any club has done this — but occupied the first four favourites in Palmerbet’s Rising Star market. Yet only Chad Warner ($7) remains there. Both Errol Gulden (at one stage the $3 outright favourite) and Braeden Campbell have sustained stress-related foot and shin injuries respectively, while key forward Logan McDonald has pushed squeezed out with the return of Franklin and Hayden McLean. The Swans are playing the long-game with these kids and it won’t worry them, but hopes of dominating the Rising Star this year are probably gone.

This week

The Swans face a beleaguered Dockers outfit who have lost their last three in a row. Sydney have lost their last two clashes against Fremantle at Optus Stadium, both in low-scoring encounters. And it could well be another slog given the forecast is for weekend rain in Perth. The Swans showed in AFL Round 8 that they’re still ultra-competitive in the wet, and won’t be fazed. On Wednesday morning, John Longmire’s men were marginal $1.93 outsiders with Palmerbet.

(*Prices correct at 10am Wednesday May 19)