After a year of dominance, the Sydney Swans were left red-faced as Hawthorn taught them a lesson in the 2014 AFL grand final. Can they go one better in 2015?
1. Grand final feedback
So hard to know what Sydney is taking from 2014 grand final defeat.
Coach John Longmire came out and stated that the club had learnt from that loss and were going to rectify in 2015. Star recruit Lance Franklin said that there is no point looking back at past defeats. Bit of a contradiction there from star player and coach.
Realistically that game has to be seen as more about what Hawthorn did to win it rather than Sydney to lose it. That probably is going to be the lesson for Sydney heading into 2015 and the big games. How to control the game and dominate both sides of the ball so that there can be only one winner.
Looking back, there was only ever going to be one winner in the 2014 big one.
2. The next slingshot
Sydney unearthed a new tactic during the run to their 2012 premiership success that became referred to as ‘slingshot football’. This tactic worked for because of their outside pace and the run they had forward of centre. Funnily the loss of a defender may force Sydney to come up with the next new tactic.
Nic Malceski’s departure has meant that Lewis Jetta is being earmarked for a defensive spot and realistically Sydney will use this loss as a reason to inject pace down back. What this does mean though is that this strength on the rebound may now have to be changed.
With twin towers in attack, Kurt Tippett and Lance Franklin, the Swans could bring a long kicking and contested marking style back into fashion at the small SCG.
3. Midfield goals
Praise has come quick for the rebuilt Sydney midfield, which has gone from dour, grind-it-out winners, to star-powered winners. What makes Sydney’s midfield dangerous though, and what is most under-appreciated, is the way in which they hit the scoreboard. A lot has been made of the power threats in Kurt Tippett, Lance Franklin, Sam Reid and Adam Goodes in the forward fifty, but the midfield is more dangerous to opposition sides.
Depending on the game, Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy, Kieran Jack, Ben McGlynn or Jarryd McVeigh can kick multiple goals. That threat and danger is just as damaging as the power forwards, yet most aren’t speaking of this offensive power.
4. Ruck concern
By virtue of spending big bucks on high-profile stars, problems were going to be seen somewhere on the Sydney list. It appears that the biggest problem came in the ruck where the loss of Shane Mumford has proven significant.
Mike Pyke has developed into a serviceable AFL ruckman, but in crunch games his inability to have an impact around the ground has the potential to hurt Sydney. This is a club that relies on the ruckman for his tap work and Pyke has developed strongly as a tap ruckman.
However the game is evolving and with Pyke and Tom Derickx as the two prime ruck options, this area is still the concern going into the 2015 season.
5. Depth question
Sydney made the call when their trade sanctions were handed down that this was a decision that could affect the club’s depth. Those troubles came sooner than Sydney would like.
Sydney have kept the strong core of its list intact and have had a charmed run with injuries recently, but looking at the bottom of last year’s ‘games played’ list, a number of handy role and depth players are now gone.
As individuals the loss of Ryan O’Keefe, Shane Biggs, Tim Membrey and Lewis Roberts-Thompson does not hurt, but put it as a group and that is 13 games Sydney has to make up. Add in 25 from Nick Malceski and Sydney are looking at making up 38 games from last year even before the possible injury bug comes to bite.
6. Seven-day breaks
Sydney may have got the fixture Fremantle desired. There was some assistance for Fremantle with seven-day breaks, but not like the one Sydney received. In the first eight rounds of the season Sydney play all Saturday games, ensuring that they are able to get in a comfortable routine early. Accentuating this massive advantage is that in that time they will play Port Adelaide, Fremantle, Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, each of whom will only be coming off a six-day break.
Given what is now known about days break to on-field performance, the AFL has gifted Sydney one of the best possible starts to the season and a likely springboard for the second half of the year.
7. Two-time premiership coach
Almost unspoken of in the lead-up to last year’s grand final was that Sydney coach John Longmire was looking to join a group of one that had coached Sydney to dual premierships. So far in the history of South Melbourne/Sydney they have had just five premiership coaches, all taking out one flag each.
Over the course of this season the potential is there for Longmire to go to third all-time in games coached for the Swans, second most in all-time wins and most in finals wins.
Still the only accolade that matters to Longmire is being the inaugural member of that dual premiership coach group.