Supreme Swans make it a three-team race for the flag

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Sydney’s destruction of Essendon on Saturday at the SCG was the most complete performance we saw over the weekend.

    More AFL Finals
    » Semi-finals, preliminary finals fixtures
    » Five talking points from Port Adelaide vs West Coast
    » Five talking points from Sydney vs Essendon

    Adelaide dismantled GWS to open the 2017 finals to confirm their premiership favouritism. And yes, Richmond crushed Geelong to follow-up, igniting the Tiger army in the process.

    But while the Swans were playing inferior opposition to what the Crows and Tigers faced, their form was merely a continuation and escalation of what they have shown since Round 7. After a 0-6 start, they have now gone 15-2, with their only losses coming to Hawthorn.

    Sydney have now won their last five games of football, and in those results have been three wins of 65 points or more, plus a 46 point win against next week’s opponent, Geelong, at their much-vaunted Simonds Stadium home.

    The Swans have won five of their last six games against the Cats, with winning margins of 46, 37, 38, 43 and 110. Geelong don’t play the MCG, where this week’s final will be played, particularly well. And the Cats pulled up bloody, bowed, sore and limping after Friday night.

    Be in no doubt, Sydney will be winning this week, and they’ll be winning in style.

    Essendon were frenetic with their pressure in the first term, clearly having absorbed the lessons of Richmond the night before. Their intensity was first class, but they just lacked enough polish to put some score on the board, breaking down with their kicking inside 50.

    But from quarter time, Sydney wrested complete control of the game, with a ten-goal second quarter. Unfortunately for the Dons, they had fired their only shot in the opening 30 minutes, and couldn’t sustain their ferocity. Once they wilted, the game was over.

    After 40 minutes of game time, the three Swan tall forwards, Buddy Franklin, Sam Reid and Callum Sinclair, had 17 touches, 12 marks and had kicked 5.2. They dominated the Sydney forward half, with the Essendon backs, including dual All-Australian Michael Hurley, all at sea.

    Lance Franklin Brendon Goddard Sydney Swans Essendon Bombers AFL 2017 tall

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    But the forward line was getting opportunities from a dominant midfield, which controlled the stoppages through Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker, as was easily predicted.

    Essendon had the quicker players, but they were unable to use their pace due to Sydney closing down their space. With most of the game being played in the Swans half of the ground, they were able to set up their press to ensure the Bombers possessions were either under pressure or non-effective.

    In fact, disposals were even across the match, as were contested and uncontested possessions. The main difference was that Sydney kicked the ball more than Essendon did, because they had more time and space than their opposition.

    The Swans keep their defensive structure better than any team in the competition, and it was always going to be hard for a lower rated side like Essendon to break them down. Sydney finished sixth on the ladder, but have clearly now proven themselves in the best three sides in the league.

    Looking into the future of the Bombers, they look a likely candidate for stagnation, so will need to recruit and trade well in order to raise the level of their list to a position where they can contend for a top-four spot in 2018 and beyond.

    Sydney’s future is now, and a preliminary final in Adelaide awaits after an easy win next week over the Cats.

    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 (123)

    • September 10th 2017 @ 7:24am
      The Ghost said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      As usual Sydney impress during the finals campaign. We must remember that they were playing the bummers who have an abysmal finals record. Let’s say they beat Geelong and then knock over Adelaide. They will have to face the Team of the People in the grand final in front of 90,000 people chearing us on. Once again Sydney will wilt in the grand final. Their grand final strike rate is sub par and rather tragic. Eat ’em alive Tigers! Victorians want a fairy tale and we are it.

      • September 10th 2017 @ 8:55am
        Lroy said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Yes, as good as the Eagles were last night, its going to be a huge ask beating Richmond at the G in a preliminary final. Same goes for GWS.

        • September 10th 2017 @ 8:59am
          Slane said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

          Nah Lroy, you have it wrong. Tigers play GWS or WCE. Crows play Syd or Geelong.

        • September 11th 2017 @ 9:34am
          New York Hawk said | September 11th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

          Nah, neither WCE or GWS will beat the Tigers – the Tigers will beat themselves no question!

      • September 10th 2017 @ 11:47am
        George said | September 10th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

        Home ground advantage (for a supposedly neutral-venue match) and (most-likely, again) umpire-assisted – not exactly something to gloat over.

        • September 11th 2017 @ 9:53am
          Milo said | September 11th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

          Stop bleating about Richmond’s so called home ground advantage. Last I checked Geelong has played every one of its VFL/AFL finals at the MCG over the past 100 years or so. Except one in 2013 at KP against Freo which Geelong lost. Move on.

      • Roar Rookie

        September 10th 2017 @ 12:39pm
        Lance Skelton said | September 10th 2017 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

        Give it a rest ‘ghost’. Long way to go for both these sides. But it’s pretty funny for you to carry on about grand final strike rate. When was the last time Richmond made it to a finals campaign, let alone a Grand Final?

        • September 11th 2017 @ 7:24am
          Milo said | September 11th 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

          Um 2 years ago.

          • September 11th 2017 @ 7:56pm
            Mark said | September 11th 2017 @ 7:56pm | ! Report

            And how’d that go? And the year before? And the year before that?

      • September 10th 2017 @ 1:33pm
        Drafford El Condor said | September 10th 2017 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

        Victorians want a fairey tale? You have 10 teams in the AFL and most years feature either in a GF appearance or a win. The problem with this game is too many teams need to be supported and that starts in Victoria. WA and SA have rich local Leagues no different structurally to the Vics but by compressing the VLF into the AFL there were always going to be former VFL clubs needing a boost. Don’t get me wrong here. The AFL needs a strong Victorian centre just like the NRL has with NSW. Big states will tend to develop and lead further simply due to their exposure.
        But come on. If you are wishing for a Victorian fareytale being Richmond? Its not about Victoria it’s about RIchmond. Just like it was about the bulldogs last year. Traditionally growing up I was anti Victorian teams because – well hey – it’s a monopoly and seeing non Victorian teams win whether they be West coast eagles or Sydney for example was always great as we (you still say interstate teams – so let’s run with that) were made to feel as though we were lesser. But I cheered for the bulldogs to beat Sydney with passion as my own Crows had been ousted. It’s not about the ‘state’ it’s about the club and Richmond, like the ‘bullies’ are long suffering – Part of the Victorian 10 monopoly or not. Richmond supporters don’t see themselves as Victorians when they win or usually as it has been lose, they ‘are’ Richmond supporters. We smaller states are used to battling for significance – of feeling like the underdog. But if Crows don’t make the GF – I’ll be barracking for Richmond. The fairey tale to be like the bulldogs last year. I’m a south Australian who lives fifty percent of my time in melbourne and fifty in Adelaide.
        It’s past the time of state loyaltys – The AFL is the code that was invented and originated in SA, WA, NT, VIC and Tasmania,
        And approximately a hundred years later we introduce it up north.
        This game isnt Victorian. It isn’t south Australian.
        It’s ‘ours’. And it’s the greatest game on earth.

        • September 10th 2017 @ 5:18pm
          Philby said | September 10th 2017 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

          Agree Drafford – it’s the team, not the state that is important. I’ve supported non-Vic teams many times, just because I prefer the interstate team’s style of play (e.g. Sydney) or because I’m sick of the same team winning all the time (e.g. Hawks), or because the local rivalry just runs too deep (e.g. Carlton / Collingwood).

          Mind you, Port is hard to love because their fans just seem to be, well, insane. But Crows and Eagles are good to watch on the right occasion – which is when they’re not playing Richmond!

          • September 10th 2017 @ 6:17pm
            DonsR said | September 10th 2017 @ 6:17pm | ! Report

            I agree – it should be about the club not the state.
            Why is it that some Victorians will hate an opposition club from Victoria but when it comes to winning a GF they will most likely support a Victorian club (unless it’s Collingwood). Is it a patrioticism (nothing wrong with being patriotic) or an AFL supremacy thing? Or both?

            • September 10th 2017 @ 6:42pm
              Gyfox said | September 10th 2017 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

              I can assure you, Dons, there is no such thing as state loyalty in SA. Those “insane” Port supporters will never support the Crows & will be barracking hard for Sydney/Geelong/Richmond!!!

      • September 10th 2017 @ 2:47pm
        Stevo said | September 10th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

        Because you know exactly how this league delivers “fairytales” don’t you…..last year, the “fairypups”, this year you want the “fairycubs”. Well, we’ll see who wilts on Gf day, and I’ll be watching the free kick count….

      • September 10th 2017 @ 2:50pm
        Stevo said | September 10th 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

        A fairytale eh… in #freekickrichmond?

      • September 10th 2017 @ 3:06pm
        Sugar coated itch said | September 10th 2017 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

        Like the Victorians got the fairytale from the umpires last year. I don’t think they will ask umpire ” Meredith” to officiate the grand final again!!!

      • September 10th 2017 @ 3:07pm
        BigAl said | September 10th 2017 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

        . . . also Ghost, don’t forget the entire CH7 commentary team !

      • September 10th 2017 @ 5:06pm
        Angela said | September 10th 2017 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

        ‘the team of the (VICTORIAN) people’
        Whoever plays them in the GF won’t stand a chance. Richmond will have to do something really stupid to lose.
        Still, as Richmond hasn’t won a GF since 1980 perhaps it’s ‘their turn’.
        Can’t begin to imagine the gnashing of teeth, the breast-beating, the wails of grief, if Richmond does happen to lose.
        Grief-stricken Melbourne will probably be too devastated to run the Melbourne Cup.

        • September 10th 2017 @ 6:47pm
          Glenn said | September 10th 2017 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

          Just because a Richmond supporters calls them the team of the Victorian people, it doesn’t make it true. Richmond are hated by a very large number of people in Victoria.

      • September 11th 2017 @ 8:10am
        D.Large said | September 11th 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        I’m a Victorian, and I can say with absolute conviction that I would rather anyone but Richmond win.

      • September 11th 2017 @ 7:54pm
        Mark said | September 11th 2017 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

        Win one final in 16 years but Sydney have the poor finals record. Hmmmmm.

    • September 10th 2017 @ 7:53am
      Gary said | September 10th 2017 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Yeah right – Richmond have great finals record

      • September 10th 2017 @ 10:32am
        tibor nagy (big four sticks) said | September 10th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        Well we vanquished the much touted Cats. What has your team done? We have arrived. It’s Tiger time folks!

        • September 10th 2017 @ 10:55am
          Mattyb said | September 10th 2017 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          Well said tibor. While Gary is busy with his ancient history,he obviously missed Friday nights almost flawless finals performance. This new breed of tiger has the perfect gameplan to go deep into September (which they have),or go all the way

          • September 10th 2017 @ 2:49pm
            Joe said | September 10th 2017 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

            “Friday nights almost flawless finals performance”

            That scrappy, inaccurate affair which blew out late after the guy tagging Dusty was injured?

    • September 10th 2017 @ 8:13am
      Horrie said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      Pretty reasonable win for the Bloods. Horse got it right at selection bringing in Naismith for Tippett and retaining Sinclair.

      A pretty upbeat analysis from Cameron but one that is a little optimistic. Geelong are not easy beats. Their midfield will be better next Friday night and miles more competitive than what Essendon produced.

      The Cat defence is also sounder than that of the Dons. Hurley played unaccountable kick chasing footy yesterday, again underlining how deceptive stats can sometimes be. Good luck to Hurley, but his selection in the AA team was again exposed. Give me a Talia, Grundy or Lonergan/Taylor every time.

      The Cats forward line badly misfired on Friday night. With two lumbering talls in Hawkins and the out of position Taylor, they badly missed fast, crumbing, high pressure forwards. Scott will put much thought into his forward structure this week.

      As a Bloods fan I was pleased with the result and Buddy’s corkie aside we seem to have come through ok on the injury front. We are not great after the bye, so the win yesterday was both great and gave the team a bit of a tune-up. Papley and Hanners will be better for the run.

      What to make of Essendon? Their list is older than ours but will change with the retirements of Watson and Kelly. After his performance yesterday, I think a hard conversation is required with Goddard.

      Their midfield lacks grunt, speed and disposal efficiency. Their skipper symbolises their problems in some ways. Who knows they may throw wads of cash at Kelly but I think they are better placed picking up mids at the draft table and doing the hard work of developing the young talent on their list.

      No doubt their coach is under no pressure. The Dons had an easy fixture this year and picked up McGrath courtesy of being indirectly rewarded for the drug abuse by the Club. I agree with you that they are at risk of stagnation.

      The Club , the AFL and the media (led by the chief footy ‘writer’ of the Sun) has promoted the narrative of Essendon being the ‘feel good’ story of the year. The Club needs to move on, while resisting the temptation to cut corners as it has done in the past. It could do worse than look at the Swans. Yesterday former Rookie List players comprised most of its fantastic backline. Development of young talent is key to success.

      • September 10th 2017 @ 11:12am
        Glenn said | September 10th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        I read this bad or not good after the bye stuff and struggle to recall when the last time was that they actually were bad after a bye. Certainly not this year and I’m pretty sure not last year. When are you referring to?

      • Roar Guru

        September 10th 2017 @ 8:45pm
        JamesH said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:45pm | ! Report

        Not sure where this stagnation thing is coming from. Just seems like a throwaway comment to me.

        There isn’t a lot of size to the EFC midfield with Watson going (and I suspect that’s what they’ll target at the draft if they don’t land a big name at the trade table) but there’s no lack of speed and kicking ability. Merrett, Parish and McGrath all have pace, good footskills and elite decision making. Heppell will still only be 25 at the start of next season and his best footy is well and truly ahead of him. Add in the potential of guys like Francis and Mutch, with the experience of Zaharakis and the dash of Fantasia on the wings, and there is no real reason to think that their midfield won’t be significantly better by 2019.

        The media got carried away by the Dons’ best footy this year and hyped them up a bit too much. Seems like a few people are getting carried away with one poor game yesterday against an elite pressure side.

    • September 10th 2017 @ 8:33am
      phil.osopher said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Have to make up for losing to the Scrays last year, somehow.

    • September 10th 2017 @ 8:49am
      Swannies said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Crows Swans match could be a mini-GF and the actual GF a blowout.

      • September 10th 2017 @ 10:25am
        David C said | September 10th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

        I don’t think Richmond will win by that much.

    • September 10th 2017 @ 8:51am
      Basil said | September 10th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Might as well start engraving the cup now, Cameron. Obviously the premiership favourites after such an impressive win over a powerhouse Bombers team.

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