AFL 2024: Sydney locks away Will Hayward long term

Sydney coach John Longmire says the key signing of Will Hayward has boosted a plan hatched during Covid to build the “next generation” of players for the Swans, who are now top of the table and premiership favourites.

Hot on the heels of several clubs, Hayward has signed a five-year deal that will keep him in Sydney until the end of the 2029 season.

The standout signing now being chased by the Swans is red-hot midfielder Chad Warner, who has put early negotiations on hold as his price is set to rise after some stunning performances in 2024, including a masterful feat against the Western Bulldogs in Round 11.

But with Hayward, 25, among a key group of signings including Errol Gulden, Ollie Florent, James Rowbottom, Brownlow Medal favorite Isaac Heeney and captain Callum Mills all on long-term deals, Longmire said it was all part of an elaborate plan. when the club wasn’t doing so well to put together the next premiership team.

“We had a big group that we prepared and came through together and they play a lot of football together. We invested heavily in them in the beginning,” he said on Tuesday.

“We went through a couple of seasons where we didn’t make the finals and then we went to Covid. In that time we’ve tried to build the next generation of players to come through and hopefully be consistent senior AFL players for us and good, high quality players.

“We know we have a lot of work to do, but part of that work is actually re-signing with them and getting the group together and moving forward, and that’s what we’re hoping to be able to do.”

Most of Longmire’s top team already have grand final experience behind them, having lost the decider in 2022 against Geelong, who they will meet in Sydney this Sunday.

Longmire revealed that Tom McCartin could return for this bout, having not played since Round 9 due to the lingering effects of concussion.

“We would expect Tommy McCartin to be back in the team,” Longmire said.

“I probably would have played if the Bulldogs game was at the weekend rather than Thursday night. He’s been a bit short in his preparation for it but he’s been training for the last couple of weeks so we’re expecting him to come in and be available this week, which is great.”

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