In my five-plus years writing for The Roar, I’ve never deliberately revealed my footballing allegiances on this forum. Until now; I’m a massive Swans fan.
I had a strange feeling this day was coming, and it was weird. It was weirder than seeing Paul Roos announced as the Melbourne Demons coach late last year.
Don’t get me wrong, though, because there isn’t a bone in my body that wishes Roos any ill-will.
After all, he was really the guy who helped put the Swans on the map in Sydney – with sincere apologies to, among many others like Paul Kelly, Tony Lockett, Barry Hall and Adam Goodes.
He will forever be remembered for his three words of celebration – “Here it is!” These words rang out as he and the Swans delivered South Melbourne/Sydney’s first premiership since 1933.
Even so, seeing Roos on the other sideline tonight took some getting used to. We all knew it wouldn’t be a ‘forever appointment’ at the Swans and the team, for the most part, is in good hands with John Longmire as head coach, but seeing Roos coach against the team he built so well over so many years, was a little bit of a head-turner.
The mountain for Roos to climb this time around with Melbourne is far higher than it ever was in Sydney. You know, Mt Kosciuszko as compared to Mt Everest. I get the feeling that Roos is there because he wants a challenge, and there’s arguably no bigger challenge in modern day football than rebuilding the Melbourne Demons, a club who’s been decimated on and off the field for the best part of the last decade.
Since making a grand final in 2000, there’s been little success for the Dees. Little success and a whole lot of failure.
Perhaps Roos is their knight in shining armour. Time will tell. Tonight, as good as he undoubtedly is in the box, he was outmatched, beaten handily by a better team, many of whom he’s coached and is probably pretty good friends with.
No matter how much inside knowledge of the Swans style Roos could feed to his players during the week, it wasn’t enough. Yes, the Demons had a crack, but the talent gap, especially in the midfield, was obvious from the get-go.
Though the Demons toiled hard, something they’ve done with increasing frequency this year under Roos as compared to last, they were outmatched. As I said, a tough rebuild at Melbourne, but it’s good to see them competitive. It’s good for footy. I doubt anyone in the AFL begrudges the Dees a little success.
Yet, there is hope for the Demons, who were competitive for long stretches of the contest, playing the same style of football that the Swans have had trademarked for the best part of a decade. At times, it was like watching an intra-club match, the two teams were that much alike.
Obviously, Paul Roos is having an impact at the Demons. They managed to limit Sydney’s scoring opportunities, but, at the same time, the Swans were good defensively, too. Ted Richards and Rhyce Shaw were probably the best down back, and Shaw was especially solid, strangling the Demons’ power forward Chris Dawes for the most part.
The scoreboard will record that Swans won fairly comfortably, and they did, but 9.15 to 5.8 was not brilliant. Twenty-four scoring shots to thirteen suggests that the red-and-whites should’ve won by much more than they did.
Kicking accuracy left a lot to be desired on Saturday night, and poor finish spoiled a lot of what were impressive attacking raids, started in defence, and continued on through the midfield. That’s where the battle was won. A pity it was not rammed home on the scoreboard.
As hard as Melbourne’s midfield tried to run with Sydney’s, the class won out. Hannebery looked good. Jack looked good. Lewis Jetta got some pleasing touches, after an uneven start to the season.
Josh Kennedy was full of class as always, his night capped by a brilliant snap in the fourth. Luke Parker had a nice start to the game with an opening-quarter goal, and was a part of a lot of what the Swans did through the middle of the ground. Jarrad McVeigh seemed back to his old self.
Seeing Adam Goodes come onto the field in the third quarter was a great moment, and the champion was among it almost immediately. With limited time to make an impact, I thought the Australian of the Year looked good. He set up a nice goal for newcomer Tom Derickx and seemed not to be swamped by the speed of the game.
Baby steps with his comeback – the alternative is to have what happened to Chris Judd last week and no Swans fan wants that.
The downside of Goodes’ successful, injury-free return was that Buddy Franklin went off with a knee injury. It looked fairly innocuous – though you can never really tell – and one wonders if perhaps the Swans were being a little cautious.
Call it protecting your investment, perhaps?
Look at it like this – Sydney were ahead by five goals at the time, needed to get Goodes some minutes, and when Buddy seemed to hyperextend his knee, John Longmire likely decided that discretion was the better part of valour.
So Buddy sat and another champion took his place. Not a bad swap, all things considered. It’s certainly been an interesting week for Buddy. Sadly, his goals kicked was less than cars totalled over the last seven days.
It was, for the most part, a scrappy win, but a win is a win, especially the way this season has started, and it’s two in a row. Certainly, the Swans will need to play better than they did today in their own attacking half. Defensively and in the midfield they were good.
Granted, it was against mostly inferior opposition, but there were things to build on from this game – remember that Hawthorn is only two weeks away. The Swans will have to lift a notch for that.
Unconnected Thought of the Night: When Buddy’s contract is up, I have a feeling it’ll seem like loose change compared to deals that’ll be inked between now and then. Sort of like Alistair Lynch’s ten-year deal wasn’t so rich by it’s end.
Such a strange night, with Paul Roos in the opposing box. You know, I love Roosy. I doubt there’s a Swans fan who doesn’t, for all the great moments he’s delivered. That’s why tonight’s win was bittersweet.
The important thing is that Sydney are back to 3-3, with a chance to go above .500 next Saturday night in Brisbane against the Lions, with Kurt Tippett still to come back into the line-up.