After knocking over flag favourites the Western Bulldogs in Round 17, the Sydney Swans have halved their AFL Premiership odds. So, are they a genuine contender in 2021?

Prior to an AFL season kicking off, all 18 skippers are asked a range of questions in the annual ‘captains survey’. A question that reappears each year is this: ‘Which seven other clubs do you think can make this year’s top eight?’ Seventeen captains this year, for instance, voted that Brisbane, Geelong, Port Adelaide, Richmond would make the finals. Interestingly, however, no captain selected the Sydney Swans. After missing the Top 8 in 2019 and 2020, no skipper believed the Bloods would return in 2021. And their thoughts were echoed in the markets, too. Palmerbet had the Swans as $5.00 outsiders to feature in September this season.

But John Longmire’s side have blown that out of the water. Now almost assured of AFL Finals footy (currently $1.05), the Bloods have blown away expectations.

And it has pundits asking just how far this side can go…

Smokey Swans?

Victory over premiership favourites the Western Bulldogs in Round 17 has slashed Sydney’s flag odds. Before the game Longmire’s men were $26 to claim the ultimate glory in 2021, but after a convincing 19-point win halved those odds to $13. So could they go all the way? St Kilda legend Nick Riewoldt thinks so. “I think they can win it,” Riewoldt told On The Couch recently. “They play a style under John Longmire that…if they can get hot at the right time, I absolutely think they‘ve got enough within their own system to win the premiership.”

No side moves the ball more efficiently from defensive-50 to forward-50 than the Swans (currently ranked no.1 in the AFL), and Riewoldt said their game plan has already been proven in 2021. “What we‘ve seen them do against some of the really quality opposition – when they beat Richmond it was a demolition, they’ve done it to West Coast – they’ve put in some really, really good performances. I think it‘s a style that will stand up (in finals).”

Top 4 in sight

History tells us the path to premiership glory is via the double-chance spots of the Top 4. Just one club (Western Bulldogs in 2016) have bucked that trend this century.

And all of a sudden, the Swans appear an outside chance to sneak in. Just two weeks ago, ahead of a tough fortnight in which they were due to face both West Coast and the Dogs, Sydney were $11 outsiders to make the Top 4. But two season-defining wins has raised their hopes considerably — now into $3.75 with Palmerbet.

Favourable run to come

No run home is ever ‘breezy’ in the AFL world, where Top 8 sides are routinely knocked off by those down the bottom — as highlighted in Round 17. But the Swans’ run to come is more straightforward than most. They face just one current Top 8 side (Fremantle, 7th) in their remaining six games. That run starts with crosstown rivals Greater Western Sydney this weekend, in a “Battle of the Bridge” that has been shifted to (of all places) Ballarat owing to the ongoing Covid crisis in NSW. The Swans start that clash as $1.52 favourites.

(*Prices correct at 12pm Wednesday July 14)