Given his long list of footy credentials, it’s hard to find a player more unfairly criticised than Dane Swan.
Whether it was his weight, off-field ventures or form during the 2014 season, Swan has seemed to attract scrutiny from all angles for the most peculiar of reasons.
But following a sub-par 2014 season, by his lofty standards, the 31-year-old admits he was close to giving the game away. Featured during Channel Seven’s Thursday night footy coverage, Swan admitted he would’ve quit at the end of 2014 if there’d been nothing tying him to the club.
“If my contract had have run out at the end of last year, I probably wouldn’t have gone on. I couldn’t get right, I was just chasing my tail, and I feel like the whole world just caves on you when you’re going badly and you just can’t do anything to stop it,” Swan said.
While his 2014 season wasn’t as poor as he perhaps made out – he still averaged almost 25 disposals across his 17 matches – it didn’t begin on a great note.
Following surgery during the off-season, Swan was criticised for being overweight and unfit to perform, with an end-of-year photo showing Swan keeling over shirtless making headlines.
The ball magnet had purple patches of form during the season but the year culminated in his first finish outside the top six in the club’s best and fairest award since 2005, averaging less than 30 disposals per game for the first time since 2008.
Swan had his doubts as to whether he’d continue in the AFL, but now reflects his decision to play on was a good one.
“I’m actually enjoying my footy for the first time in a couple of years. The club is as tight as it’s been since we won the flag in 2010” – Dane Swan
“At the end of the year I had so called experts in the media saying I was finished, but I couldn’t really care less what people externally and outside of the footy club think about me or my football.
“So this year, it’s been nice to get back to a little bit of form and play some decent footy. I’m actually enjoying my footy for the first time in a couple of years. The footy club is as tight as it’s been since we won the flag in 2010.”
It’s hard to believe Swan considered retiring given his current form. Now near his ball-accumulating best, the five-time All-Australian has gathered above 30 disposals in seven of his 14 matches so far in 2015 including 33 touches during the loss to Port Adelaide on Thursday night in his 250th match.
While reflecting on the milestone, Swan said he never thought he’d make it this far, let alone have the sort of impact he’s had after a rocky start to his AFL career.
“I never believed I would be drafted or play AFL. I was probably more worried about things going on outside of footy and my social life than I was about becoming a professional AFL footballer. I certainly didn’t know the work rate or work ethic that was needed to play at AFL level. I just thought I’d come in and have a good time with my mates.
“To be sitting here and saying I played 250 games, I don’t think anyone who knew me would’ve believed it.”
And after nearly pulling the pin with 236 matches to his name, Swan hasn’t ruled out making it to another landmark in a couple of years time, but says that’s far from his mind at the moment.
“I would rather go out a year too soon than a year too late… So 300 games, while I haven’t ruled it out, is a long way away. So let’s just get through the next 18 months and we’ll go from there.”