There is a feel-good story in every premiership winning team. For Mitch Morton, his story is nothing short of amazing. He remarkably went from being a reserves player to a premiership hero in not even two months.
Morton spent most of last year playing for the Coburg Tigers, struggling to force his way into a mediocre Richmond line-up. Falling out of favour with the Tigers, he was offered a lifeline by the Sydney Swans and was traded for a late draft pick. The rest is history; as Morton would play a vital role up forward in Sydney’s thrilling premiership win over Hawthorn.
The 25-year-old spent the first 20 rounds of the Swans’ season playing for its seconds side. Although he was kicking bags of goals each week in the forward half, his teammates and coaches informed him that he needed to improve his defensive game and overall work-rate.
Determined to take that step, he looked to enhance his forward pressure and overall defensive side of his game. He would win the respect of his teammates and coaches by working incredibly hard on the track and out on the field. Morton finally debuted for Sydney in Round 21 against the Western Bulldogs, where he would start as the sub and kick a goal in the last quarter.
He held his spot for the next week against Hawthorn, but was dropped for the last game of the season. It was clear that he needed a big game in order to be a part of the team’s finals campaign, after coming into the side as a late inclusion for the qualifying final against the Crows at AAMI Stadium.
Morton proved his worth in a remarkable victory as underdogs, with 14 disposals, four tackles and two crucial goals. In the same game, important small forward Ben McGlynn would go down with a hamstring injury. This meant that Morton had a crucial role to play in the home preliminary final against Collingwood.
Despite only having eight disposals, Morton’s forward pressure was second to none. He would lay seven tackles, two of which created turnovers and resulted in goals to Lewis Jetta and Josh Kennedy. The goal sneak’s gutsy and determined performance inevitably saw him bound for the last Saturday in September.
With McGynn ruling himself out of Grand Final selection, the Swans were in need of an X-factor in the forward line to deliver on the biggest stage. Many doubted that Morton could step up and contribute to the Sydney’s quest to greatness.
He would prove his critics wrong, snapping two decisive goals late in the second quarter to give the Swans the momentum going into half time. Emulating his forward pressure from the previous week, he finished with four tackles and heavily pressured the Hawks’ defence for the duration of the game.
It is well known that one percenters win you games of footy. With Sydney trailing by one goal at the twenty-minute mark of the last quarter, Morton produced an act of sheer brilliance and determination.
Outnumbered two-on-one in the forward 50, he managed to win the contest and handball into space for Kieran Jack to run into an open goal and level the scores.
This uplifting play from Morton inspired his teammates and the Swans would add another two goals to defy all odds and claim their fifth premiership in an historic 10-point victory over the stunned Hawks.
The story of the former West Coast Eagle and Tiger is truly remarkable. It is every AFL player’s dream to one day become a premiership player. Morton achieved the pinnacle of team success in Australian football after only five games with his third club and spending most of the year with Sydney’s reserves.
It was a reward for all the hard work he put in to improve the defensive dimension of his game, which was reflected in his imperative efforts throughout the Swans’ successful finals series. Morton was given a grand opportunity by coach John Longmire and to his credit, he took it with both hands and stepped up when it mattered most.
Mitchell Wood is a first-year Bachelor of Sport Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter: @Mitchell_Woody