Tom Mitchell after winning the Leigh Matthews Trophy.
Tom Mitchell after winning the Leigh Matthews Trophy.

Trading Mitchell a clanger by Swans: Healy

SWANS champion Gerard Healy says his old club made a serious mistake by not keeping Tom Mitchell at the SCG at the end of 2016.

Mitchell's amazing form in Hawthorn colours has already bitten the Swans on the backside but he could take an even bigger chunk out of their posterior if he goes home on Monday night with the Brownlow Medal.

There will be very little surprise if he does, he'll start the count as the red-hot favourite at $1.50 (Ladbrokes).

In 1988, Healy became the 11th Swan (Sydney/South Melbourne) to win a Brownlow when he finished four votes ahead of Essendon's Simon Madden and goal-kicking legend Jason Dunstall.

The Fox Footy host thought Mitchell should have stayed and the last two seasons have done nothing to change his mind.

"The Sydney Swans have done most things right but every club makes a blue," Healy said.

Tom Mitchell in action for Hawthorn.
Tom Mitchell in action for Hawthorn.

"My view at the time was it was a mistake to let Tom go. You don't let good and possibly great players out of your footy club."

When Mitchell came out of contract in 2016 he was fourth in line in Sydney's star-studded midfield behind Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Dan Hannebery.

The view held by many experts was the Swans were slow (as evidenced in the 2014 grand final loss to Hawthorn) and Mitchell's inclusion in the top four didn't make them any quicker.

Healy said there was still plenty of reason to keep him especially after his 2016 grand final performance against the Western Bulldogs.

"I think they misread Tom's strengths and focused on his downside but his upside was there for everyone to see when he played on the wing in the 2016 grand final," Healy said.

"He didn't look like a slow player then. He looked like a very smart, sharp player. He was close to second best on the ground."

Tom Mitchell during his days as a Sydney Swan. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Tom Mitchell during his days as a Sydney Swan. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Adding to the pain and suffering for Sydney fans is the fact Mitchell had very strong Swans roots. His father Barry played 170 games between 1984 and 1992 and won the Bob Skilton Medal in 1991.

Barry's former teammate Paul Kelly, another Swans Brownlow Medallist presented Tom with the number six jumper before his first game in Round 10, 2013 against Essendon at the SCG.

It's a moment documented in Matt Watson's book "Sons of Guns" which looked closely at Mitchell's surprise departure to the Hawks.

"I was amazed they let Tom go," Watson said.

"From the outside it looked like they didn't put up much of a fight to keep Tom at the club.

"Internally they probably did but he'd done a lengthy apprenticeship and he still wasn't getting the game time he wanted. No one likes to be down the pecking order but he felt towards the end he should have been getting a better go than he was.

"In his first year at Hawthorn he wins the best-and-fairest, comes second in the Brownlow and makes the All-Australian team.

"You could say the Swans brought him along beautifully or from the other side they held him back."

Tom Mitchell with his partner Hannah Davis after winning the Leigh Matthews Trophy.
Tom Mitchell with his partner Hannah Davis after winning the Leigh Matthews Trophy.

As Mitchell prepares his acceptance speech for the Brownlow it's no small irony that one of the players who was keeping Mitchell out of the middle, Dan Hannebery, has requested a trade to St Kilda with three years still to run on his contract.

Tom Harley wouldn't reveal the details of why Mitchell and the club couldn't come to terms but with Lance Franklin in his third year at the club salary cap pressures would no doubt have played their part.

He did say the club wished him all the best on Brownlow night and for his future.

"Tom is a father-son selection and he has some great mates at the club," Harley said.

"There was absolutely no ill feeling in the move. I can't comment on why Tom wanted to explore the trade. We couldn't come to terms on him staying at the Swans.

"It's a mark of respect we sent George Hewett to him every time. We know he is a good player."

It's a player loss which could haunt Sydney for many years to come. Mitchell is only 25 and if he wins the Brownlow it may not be his last.

Hawthorn supporters will say the ledger between the clubs is balanced after they lost Josh Kennedy in 2009.