2001 Sydney Swans 20 years

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the VFL was strategically interested in seeing a club based in Sydney, as part of a long-term plan to broaden the appeal of the game in Queensland and New South Wales. The league had started moving a few premiership matches to the Sydney Cricket Ground annually since 1979, and in 1981 was preparing to establish an entirely new, 13th VFL club in Sydney after the Fitzroy Lions staved off a proposed relocation to become the Sydney Lions in late 1980. These plans halted when the South Melbourne board, recognising the difficulties it faced with viability and financial stability in Melbourne, made the decision to play all 1982 home games in Sydney. The club had been operating at a loss of at least $150,000 for the previous five years. News of the proposal broke on 2 July 1981, after which a letter was sent to members outlining the board’s reasons for making the proposal and noting that the coach and current players were in favour of the move. On 29 July 1981, the VFL formally accepted the proposal, and paved the way for the Swans to shift to Sydney in 1982.

On 31 July 1985, for what was thought to be $6.3 million, Geoffrey Edelsten “bought” the Swans; in reality it was $2.9 million in cash with funding and other payments spread over five years. Edelsten resigned as chairman in less than twelve months, but had already made his mark. He immediately recruited former Geelong coach Tom Hafey. Hafey, in turn, used his knowledge of Geelong’s contracts to recruit David Bolton, Bernard Toohey and Greg Williams, who would all form a key part of the Sydney side, at a league-determined total fee of $240,000 (less than the $500,000 Geelong demanded and even the $300,000 Sydney offered). The likes of Gerard Healy, Merv Neagle and Paul Morwood were also poached from other clubs.

A big coup for the club was recruitment of St Kilda Football Club champion Tony “Plugger” Lockett in 1995. Lockett became a cult figure in Sydney, with an instant impact and along with the Super League war in the dominant rival rugby league football code in Australia, helped the Swans to become a powerhouse Sydney icon.

The future was looking brighter. Hope to break the premiership drought that started with their last premiership in 1933.

Lobo8 released the above cover in April 2001.