Selection pressure keeping swans on their game

Selection pressure keeping swans on their game

You only have to look at the quality of the players who can’t break into Sydney’s best 22 to see the Swans depth.

Three-time All-Australian Josh Kennedy, top five draft picks Logan McDonald and Braeden Campbell, prominent ruck recruit Peter Ladhams, 161-game defender Harry Cunningham.

It’s a list that would be the envy of many clubs and a sign of the Swans’ strength as they’ve gone on a four-game winning run and elevated into the top four, three weeks out from the finals.

For in-form young gun Errol Gulden, it’s a key reason why the Swans have clicked at the business end of the campaign.

“We’ve got some really quality players who are struggling to break into the 22 at the moment, so we know it’s really competitive and you have to be training well to keep your spot in the team,” Gulden said.

“We know we’ve got a really good list internally. I don’t think anyone feels their spot in the team is safe and that equates to better training standards and on-field performance. If you know you’re not performing then someone is going to grab your spot.”

That’s not an issue for Gulden at the moment who has shown no signs of the second-year blues by building on his AFLPA Best First-Year Player award in 2021 with another stellar season.

He was unlucky not to cap off his golden run of form with a Brett Kirk Medal on the weekend after his 33-possession, two-goal display against the Giants in the Derby that included 10 inside 50’s.

“I’m probably playing some of my best footy at the moment. It helps when the team’s playing good footy as well. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself but it is nice stringing a few big games together.”

The damaging left-footer has license to drift forward and threaten in attack, which he does with aplomb, but he mainly operates on the wing and has formed a damaging partnership with another youngster on the other flank in Dylan Stephens in recent weeks.

Amid the plethora of talent trying to break into the Swans line-up, Stephens has done that since round 15 and is producing quality performances that demonstrate why Sydney selected him with pick five in the 2019 draft.

“Dyl’s been awesome for our team. His workrate probably goes unnoticed by a lot of people. We value that really highly internally,” Gulden said.

“His last month of footy has been unbelievable, his best month playing AFL. It took him a while to break in but it’s no surprise to me that he’s playing the footy that he is, he’s such a hard worker.”

Along with the Swans’ splendid month of footy, Gulden is also revelling in having his mother Bronwyn at the club now in her role as an AFLW assistant.

“It’s awesome for her. My sister Senna as well, she played her junior footy when my mum was coaching her. I wished it was around when my mum was younger and she got the chance to play footy, but she’s loving coaching and being part of the club is a big thing,” Gulden said.

“We’ve got the mantra of being one club here at the Swans with the AFLW team. She’s loving every moment and I love that she’s got the chance to live out her childhood dream, albeit coaching.”

“She definitely played a massive role in my pathway to the AFL. She coached me at my junior club Maroubra Saints but now that I’m on AFL list she takes a back seat and supports me more than anything.”

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