Swans and Cats will only provide nuisance value in September
Sydney Swans and Geelong compete at the SCG (Slattery Images)
We entered round 13 with premiership chances being given to many teams and the oft-quoted ‘most even season in recent memory’. After watching the Sydney-Geelong game at the SCG on Friday night, we can confidently cross both teams off that list.
The Swans burst out of the blocks with a scintillating seven goal opening quarter against a Geelong outfit containing more purring kittens than ferocious Cats. But as has been their way this year, they once more fell asleep at the wheel, being comfortably outplayed for the last three quarters, and were lucky to escape with a six point victory.
Sydney’s best is as good as any team when on song. When in full flight, Josh Kennedy, Jude Bolton and Keiran Jack dominate in tight, winning multiple clearances in a row, Lewis Jetta sizzles on the outside, and they hit the scoreboard quickly with a spread of goalkickers the envy of most, a league-high eight players having topped double figures so far this year.
But when the Swans aren’t getting the game played on their terms they are staggering vulnerable, and very quickly revert back to the stodgy Sydney of old. As Tom Hawkins showed on Friday night, Heath Grundy, Alex Johnson and Ted Richards can be ill-equipped to handle power forwards getting quick supply.
And what Lewis Roberts-Thompson is doing in the side as a forward is a question for Solomon, especially when he is not acting as the second ruck. There has to be more to getting a game than simply being a good bloke and great club man.
In fact, despite sitting second on the ladder and being something of media darling who love ‘rating’ an ‘underrated’ team, Sydney have won all four quarters in a match only twice this year, with those being against the lowly GWS and Melbourne.
And despite being the most miserly defensive team in 2012, on ten occasions they’ve let through five goals or more in a quarter. Richmond and St Kilda, in particular, made them look extremely ordinary for long periods in dominant victories, and neither of these sides will be finishing in the upper echelons of the ladder.
What the win over Geelong did for Sydney was lock in a home final of some description. But, unfortunately for their supporters, they’ve proven they can’t play consistent football for an entire game. This will be costly in September, and they’ll come unstuck at the pointy end.
Football fans have been waiting for the Geelong empire to crumble, many for long enough to start penning a sequel to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
While I’m not convinced that the empire is crumbling, Geelong won’t be making the top four, and from what we’ve seen this year, couldn’t possibly win the four finals in a row against quality opposition that they’ll need to in order to hold aloft the premiership cup once more.
The Cats are now at least two wins and over twenty percent behind all sides currently holding the top-four positions, with fixtures still to come against Collingwood, Essendon, Adelaide, Hawthorn, West Coast, and Sydney again in their remaining ten games – the top six teams on the ladder.
Geelong are clearly struggling, and in truth have done so all year, with most of their matches following the same formula. They have been outplayed early by an opposition that is harder around the contest, but have gathered themselves and clawed their way back. Ultimately, they’ve either won through courage, class and experience, or just failed to get there against an opposition eager to claim the scalp of the reigning premier.
Consider the Cats record in eight matches against teams currently ranked 12th or higher on the ladder – only twice this year have they been up at quarter time, only once at half time, and only once again at three quarter time. Take out the round four win over Richmond, where they led at every change, and these statistics paint an even bleaker picture.
Their overall record against these teams is 3-5, yet more evidence of a team that won’t be figuring at the business end of the year.
Plenty wrote off Geelong at the start of 2011, only to end up with egg on their face when the Cats claimed the flag.
Because of this, no one wants to make the same mistake halfway through this year. Fear not, because the Cats, just like they were against the Swans, have been too poor early, and have found themselves too far back with too much to do.
Sydney and Geelong fought an engrossing contest on Friday night at the SCG, and each displayed enough reasons to show why they are rated as dangerous contenders.
But for mine, the negatives of both were starkly apparent too, and while both teams might win a final, or perhaps even two, they’ll have no business on the same stage as the likes of Collingwood and West Coast on the last Saturday in September.
Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for in his mind there is nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.
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