Earlier this year, North Melbourne announced its top 150 players of all time, as the club celebrates its 150th anniversary.
In the coming weeks, North Media will be profiling members of the top 150; from the most recent generation, featuring Brent Harvey, Ben Cunnington and Scott Thompson, right back to the very early days of the club, and the likes of Johnny Lewis, Charlie Cameron and Jim Adamson.
First up, a three-time Syd Barker Medal winner, Andrew Swallow.
While most Phantom selectors had Swallow falling late in the 2005 National Draft, his form in the National Championships couldn’t be ignored.
Second in the Larke Medal behind eventual Blue Marc Murphy, Swallow was Western Australia’s captain and an All-Australian in the midfield at under-18 level, before joining North at pick 43.
Wearing the number 19 jumper, Swallow debuted in Round 8 of 2006, and by his seventh appearance already had a NAB Rising Star nomination.
He was a key member of the Roos’ lineup in 2007, playing all 25 games in just his second season.
An ankle injury curtailed his progress in 2008, but it was 2009 he really when he really came into his own; albeit with an unexpected opportunity beginning his rise.
With Liam Anthony sidelined the day before Round 1 with stress fractures in his foot, Swallow came in as the last-minute emergency. It’s fair to say it proved the kick-start he needed.
Remarkably, having been originally named in the VFL to start the year, Swallow went on to win the 2009 Syd Barker Medal after 22 games and 411 disposals. He also proved handy around the goals with 17 for the season.
He fast became one of the best tacklers and clearance players at North, with a then AFL record 183 tackles in 2010, and a club record 17 clearances in a game against Adelaide in 2011.
2010 saw him runner-up for the Syd Barker Medal, but he went one better the following year, and made the All-Australian squad.
Capping off his stunning rise, he was named North’s new captain, replacing Brent Harvey in early 2012, and went on to win his third Syd Barker Medal in four years.
"I've had a few opportunities in my junior career but I think as I go along (my leadership) will evolve … I'm probably not someone who will be in people's faces and yelling and screaming,” Swallow said after being announced captain.
"I like to lead by the way I play, similar to the way that 'Boomer' (Harvey) prepares and the way he goes about his footy … (I'll also be) just getting alongside the guys and getting to know them really well and making sure that they're travelling well."
Swallow continued his outstanding form in 2013, polling 14 Brownlow votes in the first 15 rounds, but copped a cruel blow in Round 18.
"Swallow, a three-time club best and fairest winner, collapsed to the turf at Etihad Stadium two minutes into the third quarter against Melbourne after taking the ball in the centre circle, running unimpeded towards goal," The Age reported after his season-ending achilles injury in Round 18.
The skipper didn’t play again until Round 9 of the following year, but quickly resumed where he left off, polling nine Brownlow Medal votes with an average of 22 disposals and 6 tackles a game.
Further consistent seasons in 2015 and 2016 saw Swallow among the top players in the league in clearances and tackles again, as he led the club to its third consecutive finals’ campaign in his final season as captain.
He also reached a magical milestone in ’16, playing his 200th game, and becoming a life member of the club.
"When you play with him, you know exactly what you are going to get every week, and that’s a fierce contest … to play 200 games and be captain of the footy club for the past five or six years is an outstanding achievement," Jack Ziebell said.
Swallow ultimately handed the reins to Ziebell for the 2017 season, his last as a player.
Right until the end, he had a big impact, finishing with 22 disposals in his last game in the royal blue and white.
Disposals: 4,630 (avg. 20.7)
Clearances: 1,173 (avg. 5.2)
Tackles: 1,480 (avg. 6.6)
Brownlow Medal votes: 78
Achievements: Syd Barker Medal 2009, 2011, 2012, North Melbourne captain 2012-2016, Rising Star nomination 2006