Only Josh Kennedy and the Swans know whether he was managed last week, or if there was another reason why he didn’t play in Perth.
Either way, I think the days of the champion midfielder being an automatic selection are over.
Kennedy turns 34 in June and time waits for no one, even this all-time Sydney great, 2012 premiership star, triple All-Australian and three-time club best and fairest.
He would be desperate to play in a second flag – a decade after the last one – and coach John Longmire is still looking for ways to keep him involved.
Kennedy made his reputation as a contested ball-winning beast and is only 23 off matching Geelong legend Gary Ablett jnr for the most ever, with Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood in hot pursuit.
But he’s attended only three centre bounces this season and spent just three per cent of his game time as a midfielder, down from 92 per cent last year.
Instead, Longmire’s handed the midfield keys to a group of new-age stars and emerging talent, from Luke Parker and Callum Mills to James Rowbottom, Chad Warner and Ollie Florent.
Kennedy, on the other hand, has played the majority of his time on a wing or down back, which we saw as early as the pre-season games.
His averages in disposals (32 per cent down), contested possessions (34 per cent down), groundball-gets (37 per cent down), clearances (62 per cent down) and pressure points (43 per cent down) have predictably suffered.
With all that said, Kennedy, who relinquished the co-captaincy in the off-season, is still going to be a huge part of the Swans’ finals assault.
Why, you ask?
There are intangibles that can’t be measured in numbers when it comes to someone of Kennedy’s ilk: standard-setting, leadership, reliability, hardness and experience.
Other, younger options have clearly leapfrogged him in the midfield pecking order, and that needed to happen for these Swans to take the next step.
But I could see Kennedy performing a defensive midfield role, a la Scott Pendlebury on Lachie Neale last week, in certain scenarios.
I would continue to ask at match committee where he best fits on a weekly basis, whether that’s in defence or elsewhere, and sometimes the right answer will be him not playing.
Kennedy would, or should, understand that, without Longmire having to be blatant about it.
The 284-gamer’s pros still outweigh his cons at this stage and I’d pick him more often than not, especially in a Sydney side that remains quite young and inexperienced despite its success in the past 18 months.
There will be a conversation down the track about Kennedy’s future. They’re never easy chats when it comes to the greats but I’d advise him to go out with dignity.
Kennedy will know deep down whether is this year or next but no-one plays forever.