NSW Representation at Swans at all time high
Originally published as Blue Bloods: Sydney Swans NSW representation at all-time high by David Sygall at smh.com.au
Rarely is a big deal made about a player reaching his 50th appearance. However, in Dane Rampe's case, it is warranted for both the single-mindedness with which it was achieved and its significance to the game's development in NSW.
Rampe's milestone will arrive when the Swans play Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Saturday. He is one of a record 14 players from NSW on the club's list, including captains Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack, as well as exciting youngster Isaac Heeney.
Yet, whereas Heeney's progress was tagged from his early teens through the Sydney Swans Academy, established in 2010, Rampe went a very different route, highlighting the rapid evolution of the pathway for NSW-reared players.
"I'm very lucky with the way it all worked out, but I would have loved the academy there to give me that genuine black and white pathway," Rampe says. "It gives young guys confidence knowing that there is a definite route to go down. You know the right people are going to be looking at you and you'll get a fair go."
Rampe does not regret the roundabout journey he took. He says it taught him resilience and, as a mature-age player, he was better equipped to cope with pressure. However, he concedes, had the academy been around when he was playing basketball and soccer at school, he might be lining up on Saturday for appearance 100 instead of 50.
"The game wasn't around at all when I was younger. And I was pretty naive to think that I could just pick it up when I did come across it," he says.
"I thought I could play for the [NSW/ACT] Rams, make the state team, go to the national carnival, show them what I've got and get drafted. Of course, it didn't work out that way. I couldn't even get a game for the Rams, the academy wasn't around, the talk of football wasn't around. I had no idea what to do.
"I would have loved to be playing when I was 14, 15, 16, they're crucial times in your development. I probably didn't realise that until I was down in Melbourne slaving away trying to play catch-ups."
Rampe has played "catch-ups" very well, earning his teammates' respect.
"It really is a great story, him coming from park footy in Sydney pretty much to not only get an opportunity but capitalise on that opportunity," fellow defender Ted Richards says. "Once he got it, to play 50 games and hardly miss one ... I think it's great for Dane, the ups and downs he's had over the last seven or eight years, to be able to create the career that he has is really commendable."
As good as Rampe's story is, it may not be often repeated in the future. Sam Graham, the new boss of the AFL NSW/ACT, says there are multiple avenues to the top, but the academy system is making career possibilities for NSW players increasingly bright.
"The pathway is really strong. In 2014 we actually had 10 per cent of the national draft pool out of NSW and ACT," Graham says. "From a talent perspective we couldn't be in a stronger position.
"If you look at the grand final last year, both Sydney and Hawthorn had a lot of NSW players in their teams. The Giants have many local players on their list, too. It's pleasing to see. There has been a lot of work done over a long period by a lot of people. It's good that we're starting to see the fruits of that work."
One player who appeared especially pleased last week was Jack, who announced Heeney was to debut.
"A boy from Newcastle, he's come through the Sydney Swans Academy and been really impressive in the short time he's been here," the son of former league star Garry Jack said.
"Isaac was a kid who played a lot of sports as a youngster, probably had an opportunity to play rugby league but went down an AFL path. It's a competitive market in Sydney for sport. The academy system, what it does is it provides an avenue for kids and gives them a real pathway to come through the system. We're seeing the results now."
Craig Bird – 2007 AFL draft, pick 59 as a NSW Scholarship holder. Originally from Nelson Bay in the Hunter region, he played rugby league before playing junior football with Nelson Bay.
Harry Cunningham – 2012 rookie draft, pick 93. Originally a GWS zone selection but was overlooked by the Giants and the Swans took him with one of the last picks in the rookie draft. Grew up in Wagga Wagga and played rugby league before playing junior football with Turvey Park Juniors.
Isaac Heeney – 2014 AFL draft, pick 18 as Swans Academy selection. Grew up in Newcastle where he played a variety of sports, including rugby league, soccer and cricket. Played junior football with Cardiff.
Kieren Jack – 2006 rookie draft, pick 58. Grew up in the Hills district in Sydney and played rugby league until he was 12. Played junior football with Pennant Hills and spent the early part of his career catching up, as he had started playing late.
Ben McGlynn – 2006 rookie draft, pick 55. Drafted by Hawthorn and traded to the Swans along with Josh Kennedy. Grew up in Wentworth on the NSW-Victorian border and played for Wentworth.
Jarrad McVeigh – 2002 AFL draft, pick 5. Grew up on the Central Coast and played junior football with Pennant Hills. Played a variety of sports but was exposed to football through his father, who is Victorian.
Dane Rampe – 2013 rookie draft, pick 37. Grew up in Clovelly and played soccer at school. Moved to Melbourne, where he trained with the Western Bulldogs for two years but was overlooked. Spent a season with AFL Sydney and was invited to train with the Swans. Recruited as a mature-age player from UNSW/ES Bulldogs.
Abaina Davis – 2014 AFL draft, pick 70 as a Swans Academy selection. His family comes from the Torres Strait Islands and he grew up in Maroubra and played a variety of sports. Played junior football with Maroubra Saints.
Jordan Foote – 2015 rookie draft, pick 76. Played various sports while growing up in Maroubra. Came through the Swans Academy.
Brandon Jack – 2013 rookie draft, pick 58 as a Swans Academy selection. Similarly to his brother Kieren, he started playing football late after growing up playing rugby league. Played junior football with Willoughby.
Sam Naismith – 2013 rookie draft, pick 59 as a NSW priority zone selection. Grew up in Gunnedah in a rugby league family. Moved to Sydney to attend university and pursue football with North Shore. Was given a chance by the Swans, who saw his potential.
Lloyd Perris – 2014 rookie draft, pick 55 as a NSW Scholarship selection. One of the first players to join the Swans Academy. Grew up in Sydney's south and played a variety of sports. Played junior football with St George.
Dan Robinson – 2013 rookie draft, pick 51 as a NSW Scholarship selection. Grew up in Mosman and played for the Mosman Swans. Spent his last year of school at Xavier College in Melbourne.
Jack Hiscox – 2014 AFL draft, pick 38 as a Swans Academy selection. Grew up in Newtown. Was a school champion runner and only picked up AFL later in his childhood. Played for Sydney University and was recruited as a 19-year-old after missing out on being drafted in his draft year.