While there is excitement inside the club over the young talent they have accrued in recent drafts, the Swans are in a transition phase having bid farewell to several of the stars who drove them during the 2010s.
Premiership heroes Jarrad McVeigh, Kieren Jack, Nick Smith and Heath Grundy retired last year, following the likes of Dan Hannebery, Gary Rohan and Kurt Tippett the previous two seasons.
The signs were not overly encouraging during the Marsh Series, which started with a 94-point thumping by Greater Western Sydney followed by an improved effort in defeat against North Melbourne.
Adding to the Swans’ troubles, Franklin is unlikely to feature in their season-opener on the road against Adelaide.
Kennedy, one of three club captains this season, said the top four was still a goal for the Swans.
“It’s as big an aim as it is any year,” Kennedy said. “Having said that it’s not something we’re focused on right now – it’s getting better. It’s getting better as individuals, as a team.”
The Swans are bullish about their recent draft hauls with hopes high for young guns such as Nick Blakey, Will Hayward, Ollie Florent, James Rowbottom and Jordan Dawson.
Of last year’s recruits, prized pick Dylan Stephens and mature age pick-ups Kaiden Brand and Sam Gray played in the second pre-season game against North and are in contention to play in round one.
“The expectations are still really high. It’s certainly a different looking side. It happens pretty quick – four teammates retired who I played a lot of footy with, I look around the locker room and suddenly I’m one of the older players there – so that has a different feel to it.
“In terms of the expectations and standards we want to set they’re still much the same.”
Pre-season form can be hard to gauge but the heavy loss to the Giants, branded by match day coach Brett Kirk as “unacceptable”, was not well received – even for a practice match. The Swans were much more competitive against North on Monday.
“I was pretty happy the way we responded in that regard,” Kennedy said. “[I’m] hoping we can build on that again and keep us in good stead for round one.”
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald