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