Collingwood's youth isn't an excuse anymore - Dane Swan

Cats looking good (0:34)

Collingwood legend Dane Swan is tipping Geelong for the 2018 AFL premiership "if Gary Ablett can play at Gary Ablett's standard", but he sees hope also for the Crows, Tigers and Magpies. (0:34)

PHILADELPHIA -- Dane Swan doesn't miss AFL football.

After a 15-year career, and 258 games, establishing himself as one of the all-time great midfielders, Swan has been enjoying life since retiring from the sport in 2016. He spent last year traveling abroad through Europe and the U.S.

"I don't really miss footy too much at the minute," Swan tells ESPN. "I miss playing the game, obviously, because I love playing it, but I don't miss the day-to-day and what goes on with it."

Last week, Swan was in Philadelphia for the 76ers' Australian Heritage Night, as an Ambassador to Four'n Twenty pies as that company looks to break into the American market with its sponsorship deal with the Sixers. The Collingwood legend rang the Nasdaq Stock Exchange Bell and judged a meat pie-eating contest at halftime of the Philadelphia 76ers' against the Chicago Bulls.

He also showed Darren Rovell "how to really eat" an Australian meat pie after the ESPN reporter previously had made a name for himself by using cutlery.

"I'm in Philadelphia sitting courtside watching the Sixers," he says. "I've had a pretty awesome 18 months but now it's time to get home to the real world a little bit; but retirement couldn't be any better."

Swan has had plenty to keep him occupied since leaving the AFL: He still owns a tattoo shop and appeared on 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here', and is preparing to open another business in Melbourne very shortly.

Given the fact that he was away from Australia for such an extended period of time last year, Swan admits he wasn't keeping up with the daily happenings in the AFL but says it was hard to avoid the major headlines.

"You don't read [about] it every day, but you know the big stories and what's going on. It's hard to ignore - you look at the 'Herald-Sun' website, you look on Collingwood's Twitter ... you can't escape it," Swan says. "I followed it. I wouldn't say I woke up every day busting to find out what was going on in football circles, but I certainly kept an eye on Collingwood and kept an eye my mates."

One of those mates is Richmond's superstar midfielder, Dustin Martin. The pair have been close friends for years -- their annual boys' trip away has reached social media must-watch status -- and now Martin is coming off his best ever season with the Tigers as well. After signing a long-term contract extension with Richmond in August, Martin helped to end the club's 37-year premiership drought. He also won the 2017 Brownlow Medal with a record 36 votes.

To sum it up, Martin pretty much won everything there was to win in 2017. Can a player improve on a season like that? It will be scary for the rest of the league if he does, says Swan.

"If he gets better, I feel scared for sides that are gonna have to come up and play against him," Swan says. "He doesn't really have any weakness.

"I don't know how you try and stop him if you're playing against him. You just hope he has a bad one. I speak to him a lot, and he says he's as fit as he's ever been at this time of year. I think the only thing that can stop him getting better is him getting injured. That's a pretty scary thought for opposition midfielders."

Swan's former club, Collingwood, is looking to follow Richmond's lead by breaking a premiership drought of its own - albeit a far shorter drought. The Pies haven't won a flag since 2010, and have missed out on finals football for the past four seasons. For a club with such lofty ambitions, Swan says the Magpies now have to start showing and proving.

"Youth isn't an excuse anymore," he says. "I don't think they can use youth as an excuse. They brought in a lot of young blood and they've played 50, 60, 70 games together now. I think that's about the time you start playing really good footy together, so, barring injuries, I don't think they have any excuses anymore.

"I think this is the year, and the next couple of years, where they need to start playing finals again."

Swan, meanwhile, will be back in the U.S. very shortly for the NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles in February. The 76ers' Ben Simmons missed selection for the main event, but Swan believes his fellow Melbournian will become the first Aussie to feature in the All-Star Game sooner rather than later.

"No doubt within a year or two, he's gonna be in that All-Star game," Swan tells ESPN. "The Aussies are going great, and them going well is only gonna help develop the kids back home who can see it's actually possible for an Australian to go over and play in the league. Hopefully we get a few more soon."