The Swans have problems deeper than a bad start

THE Sydney Swans broke their all-time membership record last week. With 36,370 fans signed, it was something to celebrate.

But there was just one number the Swans may have preferred to have seen rise on Saturday night - and that was No.1 in their 'wins' column on the AFL ladder.

It didn't happen with many people's tip to win the premiership, including yours truly, now sitting 0-2 after another setback against Collingwood at ANZ Stadium.

While Lance Franklin's arrival in Sin City is believed to have been responsible for the membership record, has it also contributed to the Swans' worst start to a season in almost a decade?

The biggest name in the game has become its most controversial figure since he signed a nine-year, $10 million contract - and the club once renowned for its blue-collar work ethic has been calling on its white-collared accountants to crunch more and more numbers.

Even before the first-round loss to cross-town rivals the GWS Giants, there had been talk of growing disharmony among the Swans playing group - something that hasn't happened in Sydney since a certain blonde full-forward was swanning about in his skin-tight shorts, on and off the field.

Seemingly taking the truckloads of money and running from Hawthorn, everyone's favourite Buddy had suddenly become everyone's most despised enemy - even among his new teammates, if you were to believe some of the media reports.

There been talk of a bust-up between Franklin and club leader Ryan O'Keefe, and of him being a bad influence on young Dan Hannebery, leading him into trouble - or at least off the road while driving the superstar forward's new Mercedes.

The Swans have, of course, laughed off the rumours of discontent off the field, but they have some major issues on it that are hardly a laughing matter - and they don't just involve their star recruit.

Things were a little off track long before Buddy turned up, with Sydney now having lost seven of its past nine games, and six of its last seven.

While, ironically, that initial form line stretches back to a round-20 clash against the Magpies at ANZ Stadium last year, only Melbourne has had worse form in its last seven games.

Fitness was a major concern at the end of 2013, and it appears as though it is again early in 2014, with the side simply unable to run games out.

The Swans did not kick a goal in the last 45 minutes of the clash against the Giants, and against Collingwood kicked only two after half-time to their opponents' eight.

This was the same Magpies outfit that was held to five goals in total against Fremantle.

While Franklin had a much-improved game (16 disposals, 2 goals), it was O'Keefe (12), Kieren Jack (14), Rhyce Shaw (14) and Gary Rohan (8) who really struggled.

The Swans head to the Adelaide Oval this Saturday to take on the Crows.

Eighteen months ago, one straight kick separated them from playing off in a grand final. With the hosts also 0-2, this time around both teams will be playing to keep their 2014 campaigns alive ... in round three.


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