Sean Dempster says if Sydney’s fabled team of 2005 were to come up against the Swans of today, they would struggle to match it with John Longmire’s ”electric” class of 2014.
The former premiership-winning Swan and St Kilda defender can barely recognise the Sydney team of today – and the difference is not merely in personnel but also in playing styles.
Whereas the Swans of 2005-06 were branded ugly by then AFL chief Andrew Demetriou and won through attrition, the present side, headlined by superstar forward Lance Franklin, is one of the glamour teams of the competition, still capable of strangling their opposition but also adept at putting on a show.
”If you look at the side now, they’re regularly kicking really high scores, their forward line is very dangerous and capable of kicking those big scores, and they’ve got an awesome midfield who get it in there a lot,” Dempster said.
”I can totally understand why people are going to watch them and why they’re so successful, and it’s because they do play that electric-style football – and it is good to watch.”
Dempster said one of the main differences between the Swans teams of 2005-06 and 2014 was the four-pronged forward line of Franklin, Kurt Tippett, Adam Goodes and Sam Reid.
”There aren’t too many teams at the moment who are that heavy up top and have that quality of tall players forward,” Dempster said.
The midfield, too, is another example of how the Swans have changed. If the current Swans side were to square off against Paul Roos’ teams, Longmire’s men would be the ”Bentleys and Rolls-Royces”, Dempster said.
A tagger in the Swans’ 2005 premiership, Dempster would have no shortage of midfield stars to tag in this hypothetical game. Who out of Josh Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh, Luke Parker, Kieren Jack and Dan Hannebery would Dempster go to at the first bounce?
”Pick one out of a hat, really. They’ve got such quality there,” Dempster said.
”I remember the 2005-06 years as a tagger; we were going into teams trying to lock down four or five, especially against West Coast and St Kilda, who had such a damaging midfield.
”We were going into those sort of games trying to nullify and liimit four or five of those players. It’d be the same thing, they’ve got such quality inside and damage you on the outside.”
While Dempster believed the tenacity of the 2005 Swans would enable them to compete in the midfield, their defence might struggle against Franklin, Tippett and co.
”I think that 2005-06 was just a really hard-at-it, get your job done, do anything for your team style,” Dempster said.
”Maybe they didn’t have that firepower up forward but their dog-hungry willingness to compete would combat a bit of that.
”I think it’d be a tough ask for Leo Barry and Craig Bolton to really have to stamp out the four big talls because they were the key backs back in our day. It’s hard to know.”
Dempster, 30, does not know if he would still be playing league football had he not left the Swans at the end of 2007, and harbours no regrets moving to St Kilda, even if it meant he would not fulfil his wish of finishing his career as a one-club player.
Although he won a flag in Sydney, Dempster feels it is at St Kilda where he has made a name for himself, recording thirds in the club’s 2011-12 best and fairest awards and earning All Australian selection two years ago.
”Everything was great at Sydney but I was more a fringe player, in and out of the side,” Dempster said..
”I didn’t feel like I had contributed much to the side, whereas down here I feel like I’m able to do my bit week-in week-out, and really contribute to the team.”
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