New AFLW era starts in Sydney with dream debut for Swan 'fan favourite' Cynthia Hamilton - ABC News
Skip to main content
Sport

New AFLW era starts in Sydney with dream debut for Swan 'fan favourite' Cynthia Hamilton

By Jack Snape
Posted 
A woman in red and white headgear runs with a ball under her arm
Cynthia Hamilton has supported the Swans since she was a child.(Keith McInnes)

When the Sydney Swans run out for their first-ever AFLW match on Saturday afternoon against St Kilda, fans will find it hard to look past the flash of red and white on the head of Cynthia Hamilton

The 18-year-old from Canberra is a lifelong Swans fan who was selected by Sydney in June's draft at position 11.

A mid-forward already with a bag of goals in pre-season, she has been tipped for big things by coach Scott Gowans.

"Her craft to win contested footy is incredible and once she builds her tank up a little bit, she will definitely spend more time in the midfield," he said.

"She is a hard match-up because she is one of those players that can turn left and right so she has that unique balance where she identifies where the trouble is and heads the other way more often than not."

A family dressed in red at a football ground
The Hamilton family has long been Sydney Swans fans.(Supplied: Instagram)

Receiving her guernsey — or jersey — last month in a ceremony attended by the Swans' AFL side, Hamilton described the experience as "surreal".

"As a family, we've all been Swans supporters for a very long time, so actually getting presented with our jersey is an unreal moment," she said.

"We've grown up watching them on television, and then seeing them at the back table clapping us as we get our jerseys, words don't describe how crazy that is."

She's part of a team that has been built in a matter of months since the season start date was confirmed in May.

Her parents would drive Hamilton, her older sister Lexi (also a Swan), and their four other siblings up the Federal Highway to watch matches at the SCG.

That long affinity with the Swans helped make the freshly minted entity mean something immediately, according to co-captain Lauren Szigeti.

"It's super special for the girls like Lexi and Cynthia who have just grown up being Swans supporters, you can see how much it means to them and how passionate they are about the club.

"We've had a few chats about it, it's probably almost to the point of being a bit emotional, especially for them when they run out in the red and white [after] growing up supporting them, just as it will be for all of us as well.

"They've always had obviously the males to look up to, now they get to be the girls that don the jumper and be the role models for the next generation of young girls."  

Captaincy material

Szigeti, 22, has worked her way into the AFLW after last season playing in the VFL for Hawthorn, another club entering the top women's league this year.

The move from Melbourne has been a culture shock given Sydney media coverage is focused less on Aussie rules.

"On one side, it's kind of refreshing, you can step away from it when you want to, and have a bit of time not thinking about footy, but it's definitely been an adjustment seeing NRL everywhere and even soccer, rather than footy."

Six women stand on a hill overlooking Sydney on a stormy day
At 22, Lauren Szigeti (right) is the youngest member of the Swans leadership group.(Phil Hillyard)

Both Hamilton and Szigeti are players to watch out for, according to coach Gowans.

"[Szigeti] missed out multiple times, has been told no for different reasons, but her determination to lift her athletic ability to where it is today, the competition to get the most growth out of her programs and to just drive standards," he said.

Then there's top draft pick Montana Ham, who is still at school and is likely to be a long-term project for the Swans.

"Her transition so far into being able to compete in match simulation and practice matches has been amazing," Gowans said.

"I think she is a future star of the competition — probably talent-wise, equal with any player I have coached — but of course, she still has to prove herself at this level.

AFLW player sitting in the stands arms crossed atop a football. She is smiling directly at the camera.
Top Swan draft pick Montana Ham is juggling high school with the AFLW this season.(Supplied: AFL Photos)

"For her to be able to experience a little bit of football this year, knowing season two is where I expect her to come in and make a real impact, it would be great for fans to get on board and watch her grow."

Cracking Sydney

Perhaps there is no club better placed to be patient with Ham.

The Swans have been slow to join the AFLW party.

Along with Essendon, Hawthorn and Port Adelaide, the club is part of the final phase of expansion (Tasmania notwithstanding) that brings the women's league in line with the 18-team AFL.

The club initially resisted applying for a license due to a lack of training facilities, but it has spent the past few years setting up local junior pathways.

Cross-town rival GWS has been competing in the AFLW since 2017 and now the Swans have made the city's top-level Aussie rules picture complete.

Yet the Giants continue to work hard to establish a foothold in Sydney's west.

They struggled to attract four figures to Sydney matches last season, apart from at Henson Park in the city's Inner West. The ground in footy-loving Marrickville has now also been adopted by the Swans.

It means the Aussie rules community will be keenly watching how quickly Sydney attaches itself to the Swans.

A woman in red and white headgear jumps and clenches her fist on a football field.
Cynthia Hamilton (18) celebrates in a pre-season match against GWS in August 2022.(Keith McInnes)

Gowans is in no doubt of the appeal of his side, and especially of Hamilton.

"Anyone that wears a helmet like she wears in Sydney colours is pretty passionate," he said.

"If I had to pick one player that would be a fan favourite, it would be Cynthia."

And although the Victorian Gowans describes it as a "helmet", most sports fans in the Harbour City will recognise Hamilton's protective equipment as headgear.

For now, anyway.

The Swans play the Saints at 5pm on Saturday at North Sydney Oval.

Posted