Sydney Swans are the Masters

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    The US Masters is the most famous golf event on the planet, and one of the most revered players in the tournament’s storied history is American Fred Couples.

    Even though the evergreen veteran has only won the Masters once, he’s a perennial contender, and has a further ten top 10 finishes to complement his 1992 green jacket.

    Again, this morning, at 53 years of age, he’ll be staking his claim for victory.

    The Sydney Swans are AFL’s version of Fred Couples at the Masters, and they’re on track to contend again in 2013.

    While the likes of Hawthorn, Carlton and North Melbourne were handed extremely tough draws in the early part this season, Sydney were gifted the two expansion teams in the opening two rounds.

    And in the opening six weeks they only play two of last year finalists, seventh and eighth from last year, Geelong and North Melbourne.

    But why shouldn’t the reigning premier get a few perks? In the world golf match-play championship, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy don’t play each other in the early rounds.

    The Swans displayed plenty of ring-rust in Round 1 against GWS, who scrapped away with conviction all day. The cow paddock dressed up as a football ground at ANZ Stadium isn’t conducive to attractive play, and after a less than impressive pre-season from his men, John Longmire gladly accepted the five goal win.

    Sydney also started slowly against Gold Coast back at the SCG, but improved as the match wore on, increasing their scoring rate in every quarter to run away with a comfortable victory.

    There is a school of thought suggesting the Swans are a side that elevates their level of play depending on the opposition. That being the case, we expected them to find a gear or two when facing North Melbourne on Saturday down in Tasmania.

    The Roos were disappointing against an under-strength but committed Collingwood in Round 1, but turned around their form with a dazzling first half against Geelong, playing some of the best football of the season.

    Ultimately, they couldn’t hold on against the irrepressible Cats, but their form was sharp, and a statement was required at Blundstone Arena in Tasmania, their second home. North couldn’t afford to be 0-3.

    The Swans started slowly once more, and went in at half-time 14 points in arrears, a deficit that would have been much greater if it wasn’t for Jude Bolton’s three first half goals. Talk about evergreen. If Sydney are the Fred Couples of the AFL, Jude Bolton is the Fred Couples of Sydney.

    The 33-year-old could easily have retired after the fairytale second flag last year, but decided to keep on, and it’s clear that he’ll continue to add value during this premiership tilt.

    After the half time break, Sydney unleashed a blitzkrieg that should have woken the ignorant to the fact they’ll be right in contention again this year. An 11 goal third quarter against a respected opponent was the result, including the last nine in a row.

    No longer are these the ‘stodgy Swans’, and haven’t been for some time. Yes, they were still the best defensive team in 2012, but averaged over 100 points a match for the year as well.

    Ted Richards is up with the best key defenders around, Heath Grundy can defend and attack with equal aplomb, Nick Smith is a terrier who I doubt has been beaten in anything since he was 10 years old, and good old LRT continues to do whatever job is asked of him in his no frills way.

    Alex Johnson went down with an ACL in the pre-season, but as well drilled as the Swans are, combined with the versatility and depth of their list, injuries are more easily covered and losses of otherwise key players not as keenly felt as at other clubs.

    Few teams transition as well from defence, utilising the run and skill of Nick Malceski, Rhys Shaw, Marty Mattner and Tony Armstrong, when he’s there, to rebound from defensive 50, opening up Lewis Jetta, Daniel Hanneberry and Kieren Jack to create run through the middle.

    Jetta has been a disappointment in 2013 so far, and needs to lift his work-rate. He was near All-Australian last season, and needs to not rest on those laurels, but double his efforts under the closer attention he’s now receiving.

    If there are three qualities that we all want in a deep midfield, they would probably be an ability for each player to hit the scoreboard, toughness at and around the ball, and a never-say-die attitude.

    Sydney have all of these attributes in spades.

    Multiple goals on Saturday from Bolton, Hanneberry, McGlynn, McVeigh and Parker took the game away from North. And if you had a set-shot that was the equivalent of a trickly little 8-10 foot downhill slider at Augusta, Ryan O’Keefe would be your man to make it every time.

    Speaking of Jarrad McVeigh, do opposition coaches put any time into him at all?

    He vied for Norm Smith honours in the grand final last year, has probably been Sydney’s most consistent player for years, and is still able to stroll around as he likes. 27 disposals and four goals against the Suns was followed up with 28 and two against North. He can also perform a minder’s role when required, and rarely makes a wrong decision under pressure.

    ‘Underrated’ gets bandied about too much in football, and is often used by people who want to appear to know more than what they do. I simply hate it. Most players it’s attributed to are simply good average players who’ll never be any more than that. But it’s a tag I’m willing to put on McVeigh. An understated gun.

    You want toughness and a refusal to admit defeat? Try almost every player who steps out in a Sydney jumper. The same can be said for their opponent this week, Geelong.

    Boy is that going to be a Friday night epic. A grand final preview? It’s not preposterous.

    Adam Scott, Jason Day and Marc Leishman will probably have finished their run at US Masters glory by the time you read this, and hopefully one of them has secured the holy grail of Australian sport.

    When it gets tough down the stretch, and they need to make a clutch putt or a par-saving up-and-down, there are worse things they could channel than the belief and courage of the Sydney Football Club, forever contending, and winning when all others have written them off.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    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 there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (36)

    • April 15th 2013 @ 7:34am
      mwm said | April 15th 2013 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      Its the simple things that many people think

      m have been lost to the game. Hard at the ball…tackle the loose man your team mate may have missed…kick to a player…and keep running to form an attacking chain, and most importantly…having players who are of a sound mind. I never hear of any Swans players getting up to nightlife mischief

      • April 15th 2013 @ 11:45am
        andyincanberra said | April 15th 2013 @ 11:45am | ! Report

        Absolutely correct. The Swans are able to get players that while not overly blessed with talent, still become really good players. Keiran Jack started along way behind other players drafted in the same year, but through the culture of hard-work at the Swans, he would be a walk up start in any team at the AFL.
        Melbourne should take note of how the Swans run their club.

        • Columnist

          April 15th 2013 @ 1:08pm
          Cameron Rose said | April 15th 2013 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

          Jack, in particular, is one of the best midfielders in the competition. He’s the perfect blend of speed, skill and toughness.

    • April 15th 2013 @ 7:51am
      D.Large said | April 15th 2013 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      Nice to see Jarrod McVeigh getting the praise he so richly deserves. That man quite simply does not make a mistake with the ball in hand and he has a fantastic goal sense.
      I am also so pleased to see the credit Jude Bolton has been getting in his latter years. He has been compared unfavourably to Lenny Hayes over his career since the year they were drafted so close to each other the late 90’s and has remarkably never been considered captaincy material, but that man has proved to be as adaptable, enduring and skilful as anyone.

      • April 15th 2013 @ 12:37pm
        Shiney McShine said | April 15th 2013 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

        Both McVeigh and Bolton are guns. They would have been guns in any Premiership team of the last 20 years. I cannot remember the last time either played a bad game…

    • April 15th 2013 @ 9:33am
      Andrew Sertori said | April 15th 2013 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      I was at the game, jetta was not working in to space like he did, maybe its extra attention, but i also think he is not working and running as hard as last year.

      the best part is come round 12 they add Kurt Tippett which also makes like easier for Sam Reid

      • Columnist

        April 15th 2013 @ 1:13pm
        Cameron Rose said | April 15th 2013 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        Yes, Tippett will be a welcome addition, and as Matt accurately points out below, Goodes and Mumford are only just travelling at the moment. Lebman suggests the Swans will peak for finals again, so those two have plenty of time to work into the season.

        I saw an interesting comment on Twitter actually, suggesting that Pyke has gone past Mumford in importance due to better tap work and being a more dangerous forward. Big call, but gee Pyke’s been impressive over the last 12 months, and should only be getting better.

        • Roar Guru

          April 15th 2013 @ 1:17pm
          wisey_9 said | April 15th 2013 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

          Lots of people have been saying that Pyke will have to make way once Tippett becomes available.

          I’d prefer to move Goodes back to a permanent on-baller, and play two talls plus Reid up in the forward line. Surely, if the Swans are in a strong position come Round 12, this could be an option?

          • Columnist

            April 15th 2013 @ 1:19pm
            Cameron Rose said | April 15th 2013 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

            Yeah, they could send Goodes off to a wing to do as he likes, basically like Matthew Richardson did in his final year or two. That would make Sydney a dangerous proposition indeed.

    • Roar Pro

      April 15th 2013 @ 10:48am
      swannies05 said | April 15th 2013 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      Totally agree about McVeigh… he has been my favourite Swan ever since Kirky and your point about his decision making and goal sense is spot on. Add on to this that he is a captain of one of the hardest working teams in the competition and you can see that at least he isn’t underrated by those that matter (his own club). GO THE MIGHTY BLOODS!!

      • Columnist

        April 15th 2013 @ 1:15pm
        Cameron Rose said | April 15th 2013 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

        It was fantastic to see him get a flag after missing in 2005, and playing in the 2006 loss. Is one of many Sydney players over the years who symbolizes why they are so respected within the competition, both clubs and opposition fans.

    • April 15th 2013 @ 11:45am
      Matt F said | April 15th 2013 @ 11:45am | ! Report

      I’m not going to argue with you here Cam! It’s good to know that, when tested, we can respond like that. I agree that we seem to be a side that elevates our play depending on the opposition. We don’t play a style that will get too many 100+ point wins we look to be building quite nicely. There’s still a fair bit of improvement left as well. Jetta, Goodes and Mumford all seem below their best right now, particularly Jetta.

      The aim of any premiership contender should be to make the Top 4 and go from there come finals time. We look on track for that so far. Can’t wait for Geelong on Friday night!

      • Columnist

        April 15th 2013 @ 1:17pm
        Cameron Rose said | April 15th 2013 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

        One of Sydney or Geelong will be 4-0 and holding the whip hand for a top four spot. The winner shouldn’t miss, taking into account the quality and depth of each list, plus an inability to accept defeat without one hell of a fight. Friday night footy is the best, and this should be a cracker.

      • April 15th 2013 @ 3:07pm
        me, I like football said | April 15th 2013 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

        Swans should beat the Cats Friday night at home with Geelong having 3 tough games soon to be four with only 6 day breaks between each game.

        • April 15th 2013 @ 4:35pm
          Osmosis said | April 15th 2013 @ 4:35pm | ! Report

          So they started on a Monday and are now back to friday???

          • April 16th 2013 @ 10:33am
            me, I like football said | April 16th 2013 @ 10:33am | ! Report

            Yes

    • Roar Guru

      April 15th 2013 @ 12:17pm
      wisey_9 said | April 15th 2013 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

      Something that Gerard Whateley (I think) said last year has really resonated with me. It was something along the lines of –

      “Being a Swans fan must be one of the most pleasing things in Australian sport. Every single game they show up and give 110%, no matter if they are dead set favorites or underdogs. It feels like every game is decided by only a kick or two…”

      • April 15th 2013 @ 1:32pm
        Matt F said | April 15th 2013 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

        Apart from the odd game here and there (Melbourne in 2010 springs to mind) he’s not wrong

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