AFTER agonising over an injury that almost cost him the chance to play in a premiership side, Sydney ruckman Shane Mumford is unconcerned about dealing with the pressure that comes with defending the flag.
Instead, the 26-year-old reckons the Swans will be liberated this year by being once again written off by experts and the wider public.
Mumford's moment almost never came, when he was only cleared of a hamstring problem just 40 minutes before last year's grand final victory over raging favourites Hawthorn.
He will miss the start to the Swans NAB Cup pre-season campaign against fledgling crosstown rivals Greater Western Sydney and a Carlton team under the direction of master coach Mick Malthouse because of an ankle injury.
But determined to cement his place among the premier ruckmen in the competition this season, Mumford said perennial underdog status would continue to work in the Swans' favour.
"The media and everyone is going to write us off like they do every year," he said. "Which is not such a bad thing, being the underdog."
September's triumph ended a run of heartbreak and near misses for the No. 57 draft pick of 2007.
Recruited by Geelong, Mumford was forced out of the VFL grand final that year when replaced by Steven King and then dropped when the Cats won the 2009 AFL flag, after playing 18 of the 22 home-and-away rounds.
Lured to Sydney, Mumford again appeared destined to be a despairing spectator last season, battling a hamstring complaint throughout the grand final build-up, before being confirmed to play 40 minutes before running on to the MCG.
Following an impressive pre-season, Mumford has again been struck down by injury, rolling his ankle at training three weeks ago.
While he will miss the opening hitout against GWS and Carlton, Mumford is hopeful of a return for next week's trip to Melbourne to take on St Kilda.
Mumford said his first goal was to remain injury-free this year to be at his peak when taking on the likes of towering Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands and the class of West Coast's Dean Cox.
"Getting through the year without being injured at all would be nice," he said. "I was on track to do that, I'd had a really good pre-season, I was running PBs before it happened. But I'd got a good base behind me and I'm looking forward to a big year."
Mumford admitted the Swans' premiership came at an important time for the club last year as they battle newcomers GWS to win the hearts and minds of the NSW public.
"In the last 10 years, we've made the finals nine times," he said. "I wouldn't expect it to be any different this year, we've still got the same focus to play the same kind of footy we always have."
The story Mumford expects flag-waving Swans to fly under the radar first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.