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Swans and Hawks both face the beginning of the end

mastermind5991 Roar Guru

By mastermind5991, mastermind5991 is a Roar Guru

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    Perennial heavyweights the Sydney Swans and Hawthorn Hawks are facing the inevitable decline many of their fans had feared for a while.

    Before the season started, not one AFL expert would have forecast that the Swans and Hawks be winless at this early point, but that’s exactly what has transpired.

    Both clubs, as well as North Melbourne, are 0-4 to start the season, and not since North in 1975 has any club gone on to reach the finals after starting a season so poorly (although the Kangaroos went on to win their first premiership that year).

    While the Roos’ poor start to the year was somewhat expected, given coach Brad Scott made it clear his club was rebuilding, the Swans’ and Hawks’ dismal efforts come as a surprise.

    Both clubs have made significant changes to their playing lists, with Hawthorn offloading club stalwarts Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis to West Coast and Melbourne respectively. They also replaced captain Luke Hodge with Jarryd Roughead, who hadn’t played at all in 2016 after first battling a knee injury and then melanoma, and added Jaeger O’Meara and Tyrone Vickery to their list.

    After the club’s semi-final loss to the Western Bulldogs last September, coach Alastair Clarkson said he would be happy to finish 18th in 2017 if it meant having a healthy Roughead on deck.

    Likewise, the Swans traded Tom Mitchell and Toby Nankervis out to Hawthorn and Richmond respectively, while co-captains Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh made way for Josh Kennedy, who has been a model of consistency since arriving at the club from Hawthorn in 2010.

    The events of the off-season came after the Hawks and Swans both fell victim to the Western Bulldogs’ Cinderella run to last year’s premiership.

    That, and the emergence of the Greater Western Sydney Giants, could be seen as the beginning of a significant shift in the AFL landscape after years of domination by the Hawks and Swans, during which eight of the last 12 grand finals featured either side (or both in the case of 2012 and 2014).

    The latter point will become a huge talking point when the Swans and Giants face off in the 12th edition of the Sydney Derby at the SCG this Saturday night.

    When the Giants entered the AFL, in 2012, they started miles behind most other clubs in terms of player development and experience, with the Gold Coast Suns only marginally ahead by virtue of them having entered the competition 12 months prior.

    Therefore it came as no surprise that the Giants finished last in each of their first two seasons, across which they won just three games and copped ten losses by over 100 points.

    GWS lost their first four derbies against the Swans by an average of 79 points, including a 129-point thrashing on their first visit to the SCG, in mid-2013.

    But the tide has turned since then, with the Giants pulling off a surprise 32-point win at Spotless Stadium in Round 1 of the 2014 season. Despite this, the Swans still finished on top of the ladder and went on to reach another grand final, losing to Hawthorn by 63 points.

    More significantly, the Giants defeated the Swans in their maiden finals match, last September. They had already beaten the Swans by 42 points when the teams met at Spotless Stadium in June; it was the red and white’s heaviest defeat for the 2016 season.

    Leon Cameron’s men now have the chance to break their SCG hoodoo this Saturday night, and doing that will almost certainly land the knockout blow to the Swans’ season.

    Phil Davis GWS Giants Lance Franklin Sydney Swans AFL 2016

    Like many clubs before them, injuries, poor form and the aforementioned player turnover have been blamed for both Sydney and Hawthorn starting this year poorly.

    Isaac Heeney, Jarrad McVeigh and Gary Rohan have yet to play for Sydney this year, while Tom Papley, Dane Rampe and Kurt Tippett have also spent time on the sidelines this year due to injury. Despite this, the club has been competitive in their four losses so far, with their young brigade playing strong roles.

    However, skill errors cost them dearly against the West Coast Eagles in Perth, and a repeat against the Giants will be punished more severely.

    Still, the Swans’ worst start to a season since 1993 is a clear sign that the long-term success the club has enjoyed under current coach John Longmire and his predecessor, Paul Roos, is starting to catch up.

    Only three times since 1995 has the club missed out on September action, during which they featured in six grand finals for two premierships, and won over 50 per cent of finals matches.

    In the eight completed seasons under Roos, between 2003 and 2010, the Swans missed the finals just once, in 2009, while under Longmire they have reached at least the preliminary final four times in six completed seasons.

    The club’s success under Roos and Longmire is a testament to their will to strive in a city dominated by rugby league and, in recent years, association football.

    Paul Roos, coach of Melbourne looks on during the 2014 NAB Challenge launch

    While the Swans could have won any or all of their first four matches, the Hawks have had a shocking start.

    After losing their first two matches, against Essendon and the Adelaide Crows, by 25 and 24 points respectively, Clarkson’s men have dropped their past two, to the Gold Coast Suns and Geelong Cats, both by 86 points. They are now sitting 18th, with a percentage of just 56.

    In a disturbing sign that their time at the top is just about to come to a crashing halt, they have scored the least amount of points for (281), and more shockingly, conceded the most amount of points (502).

    This is not the same champion Hawthorn side that we were used to seeing at the turn of this decade, and there is a chance they may suffer the same long-term decline the Brisbane Lions have over the last decade and a bit.

    The Lions won three consecutive premierships between 2001 and 2003 under the coaching of Leigh Matthews, and narrowly missed out on matching Collingwood’s four-peat set in 1927-30 when they lost to Port Adelaide in the 2004 decider.

    The club has not recovered from that missed opportunity since and, after four consecutive years without finals football, Matthews quit in September 2008, saying the time was right.

    The club reached the finals under first-year coach Michael Voss in 2009 but have finished no higher than 12th in seven completed seasons since.

    Now it has been suggested by former Geelong Cats coach Mark Thompson that Clarkson should leave before he is pushed.

    Alastair Clarkson Hawthorn Hawks AFL 2017

    ‘Bomber’ Thompson suddenly quit his post as Cats coach at the height of the team’s success, in 2010, with Chris Scott doing very well to keep them at the upper echelon of the ladder in the years since.

    Clarkson has been at the helm of the Hawks since 2005, taking over when the club had finished 15th in 2004. In this time, he has transformed them from a basket case into the comp’s most consistent side, winning four premierships between 2008 and 2015.

    Having been there for the good times, it’s a fair bet to say he will be there when the club undergoes its rebuild, much like John Worsfold at the West Coast Eagles, where ‘Woosha’ oversaw sustained success in the mid-noughties and a rebuilding period at the back end of the decade.

    The Eagles’ rebuild came about as a result of the trading out of club champion Chris Judd, as well as the sacking of Ben Cousins, who was then suspended for 12 months for bringing the game into disrepute.

    Likewise, the Hawks appear to be bottoming out this year, having offloaded Mitchell and Lewis in controversial circumstances last October. With Hodge in the twilight of his career, the tough times that lie ahead for this once-dominant club could remain for the long-term.

    So how will the Hawks and Swans go about their rebuilding processes in the short-term, after all the glory they have enjoyed in recent years?

    For the sake of their fans, let’s just hope that their seasons don’t end in embarrassment, like Fremantle’s did last year.

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • April 19th 2017 @ 3:35am
      SmithHatesMaxwell said | April 19th 2017 @ 3:35am | ! Report

      Swans are one of the younger teams in the competition. Hawks one of the oldest. Swans were a young team last year when they won the minor premiership and made the Grand Final. Had to play the Bulldogs in Victoria despite the Bulldogs being the lower ranked team, and had to overcome an enormous free kick differential.

      Swans have many injuries, some stars having a dip in form, half the side has played less than 50 games with quite a few playing less than 10 games.

      Hawks are slow, old and soft as butter. Just refuse to win the contested ball. It fell off the cliff last year to world record lows. Clarko scoffed saying he didn’t give a toss about contested ball. That blew up in his face towards the end of the season. Sure, they have always favoured a soft, uncontested style of play but the contested ball differential was still solid in 2014. Last year was embarrassing.

      I think Sydney will bounce back to win 9 or 10 games and build on that next year. The pain has only just begun for the umps pets.

      • April 19th 2017 @ 4:54am
        dylillama said | April 19th 2017 @ 4:54am | ! Report

        Well I think your comments are ill founded. They are deeply ignorant, they show a complete lack of understanding of modern Australian rules football, and simply served to highlight the sort of intense stupidity that football lovers encounter from armchair pundits who forget to think before they open their mouth. But with a full and frank apology that you’re about to give us this morning I’m sure you can dig yourself out of this rather ugly hole.

        • April 19th 2017 @ 5:19am
          SmithHatesMaxwell said | April 19th 2017 @ 5:19am | ! Report

          You can play an uncontested game plan, but when the ball is in dispute there’s no excuse for being smashed by the opposition for contested ball.

          That’s just being soft. Hawthorn thought they were “above” having to get in the trenches and fight for a ball in dispute. Their game plan last year just smacked of arrogance and disrespect for the opposition. Cost them their chance of winning 4 in a row.

          • April 19th 2017 @ 5:29am
            dylillama said | April 19th 2017 @ 5:29am | ! Report

            I don’t see what this is going to gain you. Why don’t you just issue a frank and full retraction of what you said, and you’ll get yourself out of a lot of silly bother.

            • April 19th 2017 @ 9:25am
              andyl12 said | April 19th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

              Why doesn’t he just admit he’s jealous of Hawthorn’s success.

          • April 19th 2017 @ 7:09am
            AR said | April 19th 2017 @ 7:09am | ! Report

            Those soft silly Hawks with their 3 consecutive Premiership medals


      • April 19th 2017 @ 8:53am
        Bob said | April 19th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        I may have been an impartial observer, but I do remember those soft Hawks beating the crap out of the Swans in a Grand Final not so long ago.

        Also, as a non-Swans AFL fan in Sydney, one of the most annoying things is Swans fans who, despite being gifted a myriad of bonuses that other clubs are not privy to (extra million+ in salary cap, academies that other clubs can’t have, first access to players wanting to leave the fish bowl of Melbourne etc), still have the gall to complain about their lot in life. Also, as a neutral in Sydney, I can say the Swans get the better of the umpiring almost all the time, but the fans don’t really understand the rules and just see the other team has the ball and boo because that’s all they know about the game.

        • April 19th 2017 @ 9:10am
          Christo the Daddyo said | April 19th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report



        • April 19th 2017 @ 10:00am
          Rod said | April 19th 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

          Your comment that many Swans fans don’t understand the rules is wide of the mark these days.. Many of us have played AFL football for many years and know the game. And those supporters introduced to the game when the Swans arrived in Sydney have been watching for 20 years plus now so they understand the game fairly well. Of course no-one can keep up with umpires’ weekly changes in interpretation of the rules. And your comment regarding booing when an opponent has the ball seems quite universal to me, rather than a Sydney Swans quality. Just watch a game at the MCG and Etihad. The booing is directly proportional to a team’s trailing margin. Collingwood and Richmond supporters are especially vocal, I’ve noticed.

          • April 19th 2017 @ 11:44am
            Jim said | April 19th 2017 @ 11:44am | ! Report

            Spot on Rod – as someone that has been lucky enough to see a lot of footy at a lot of venues around the country, I don’t think Swans fans are any better nor worse than any other clubs fans. Of course the Swans have idiot fans that have no idea what is going on with the rules – but so do every single club out there.

            As for the booing issue – again, it is no different to what you see at any other AFL ground.

          • April 19th 2017 @ 1:16pm
            Paul2 said | April 19th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

            This is a little pedantic, but when you say you’ve “played AFL football for many years”, I assume what you really mean is that you’ve played Australian Rules Football. To say you’ve been playing AFL football suggests you’ve been playing for the Swans or some other AFL club.

        • April 19th 2017 @ 11:41am
          Jim said | April 19th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

          “Also, as a neutral in Sydney, I can say the Swans get the better of the umpiring almost all the time, but the fans don’t really understand the rules and just see the other team has the ball and boo because that’s all they know about the game.”

          Talk about a tired old cliché in the second half of that sentence……

          • April 19th 2017 @ 4:28pm
            Bob said | April 19th 2017 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

            Cliches only become cliches by dint of the truth underlying them, otherwise they wouldn’t be repeated

      • April 19th 2017 @ 4:08pm
        Birdman said | April 19th 2017 @ 4:08pm | ! Report



    • April 19th 2017 @ 9:14am
      Christo the Daddyo said | April 19th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      There’s a significant difference between the Swans and Hawks this year – the Swans have been competitive in all their games so far, whereas the Hawks haven’t.

      In my book the Swans are only two losses behind where I thought they would be at this point. Really should have beaten Collingwood and Port…

    • April 19th 2017 @ 9:21am
      mdso said | April 19th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      The whole universe goes in circles and cycles why should footy be any different?

      They’ll both rebuild and be back some time in the future. Gives other teams their chance at the big one. And; Sydney
      seem to do it better than most. Round and round the mulberry bush we go.

    • April 19th 2017 @ 12:09pm
      Christo the Daddyo said | April 19th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      And could the second half of the season get even better? Do Swans fans dare to dream AJ might make a return to footy this year?

    • April 19th 2017 @ 1:37pm
      R2k said | April 19th 2017 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

      We’ll know by the end of the season if it’s truly the end of an era – at the very least it’s a changing of the guard. It could become a very crowded finals race.

    • April 19th 2017 @ 4:30pm
      JK Legend said | April 19th 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

      I love when the swans lose and they still have to fork out the blindly stupid fortune to Franklin , that’s just hilarious !!!

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