The Swans are this season’s quiet achievers

Ryan Geer Roar Pro

By Ryan Geer, Ryan Geer is a Roar Pro

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    At the halfway point of the 2018 AFL season the Sydney Swans have quietly made their way to 9-3 and are sitting in third.

    This weekend they’re coming up against the top-of-the-table West Coast Eagles, who have lost only one game all year – which was in Round 1 to the Swans at Optus Stadium. This makes for an intriguing contest and could be the best Friday night game this season.

    Much of the attention this season has been on the dominance of West Coast and Richmond and also surprise packets of Melbourne, Collingwood and North Melbourne. A lot of focus has also been placed on the disappointing Adelaide, Gold Coast and St Kilda sides.

    The Swans, on the other hand, have gone relatively unnoticed this season, grinding out some good victories but still by some experts not considered real premiership contenders.

    While some of the senior boys have been out of form at times or out injured, the Swans youngsters have really improved and stepped up. Players like Oliver Florent, Ben Ronke, Tom McCartin and Will Hayward have shown that the Swans have a bright future ahead. Florent and Ronke have both earned themselves Rising Star nominations already this season.

    Florent earnt the Round 11 nomination with 20 disposals, five score involvements, five intercept possessions and four inside 50s in a win over Carlton. Ronke had a record-breaking night in only his third AFL game, with 11 disposals and becoming the first player in AFL history to kick seven goals and have ten tackles in a game.

    Josh P Kennedy

    (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

    Hayward, who was only a late inclusion for Round 1, hasn’t missed a beat since, playing all 12 games and kicking 21 goals to have him 14th on the AFL goal-kicking list, which is amazing for a second-year player. He was the highlight for the Swans for the three weeks Lance Franklin was out injured. He’s only 186 centimetres but he was taking big, high-flying marks playing as a key forward, kicking nine goals in those three weeks.

    One player who doesn’t get the credit he deserves is Jake Lloyd. The Swans running defender is having a standout season, leading Sydney in disposals and rebound 50s this season with an 80 per cent disposal efficiency. He has only had one game under 20 disposals, with his best effort being 41 disposals, 15 marks, nine rebound 50s and a goal against the Dockers in Round 8. He should be in All Australian contention in the back pocket or off the half-back line without a doubt.

    It was last Saturday night that the Swans showed that they can really put a team to the sword, be it only against a deplorable Saints team up 55-7 at quarter time before eventually running out 71-point winners. They have multiple avenues to goal – Franklin, Hayward, Ronke – and have a midfield that hit the scoreboard hard as well, including Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Isaac Heeney. Even Ruckman Callum Sinclair is kicking goals.

    Sinclair himself has taken his own game to a new level this season. He was thrust into the number one ruck role in the preseason when number one ruckman Sam Naismith went down with a ruptured ACL. It was thought the ruck department would be a major weakness for Sydney, but Sinclair has played every game this season averaging 15 disposals and 31 hit-outs and leads all ruckmen with ten goals this season.

    Callum Sinclair Sydney Swans AFL 2017

    (Mark Metcalfe/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Right now is the best time to play West Coast – probably at their most vulnerable, away from home and missing in-form star forward Jack Darling. The Swans are on a roll, winning their last five matches, and they’d be hoping the Eagles are slow starters coming off their bye last week.

    The ruck duel will be an important one between the Eagles duo Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett against Sinclair to see which midfield gets first use. The other interesting match-up will be who plays on Franklin, who in Round 1 against the Eagles was at his devastating best, with 21 disposals, nine marks and eight goals.

    This Friday night, if the Swans can knock off West Coast at home, the AFL will start to take notice. They will no longer be that under-the-radar team they’ve been this season; they should start being real premiership threats up there with Richmond.

    On a roll with a bigger, stronger midfield featuring Kennedy, Parker and Heeney and with Franklin coming back into some real form after a few weeks off with injury will lead to a Swans win. At the SCG with West Coast maybe being a bit slow to start coming off the bye, the Swans can win a close but thrilling contest.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • June 14th 2018 @ 11:48am
      Christo the Daddyo said | June 14th 2018 @ 11:48am | ! Report

      I think the Swans have looked both unconvincing and inconsistent so far this year. Two unexpected wins (against the Eagles and the Cats) have to be balanced out by their unusually poor record at home this year. Pretty sure the club would have been expecting wins against Port, the Crows and North at the start of the season, particularly at the SCG.

      Sinclair won’t have a bigger test than going up against a rested Naitanui this Friday – if he can at least be competitive that will be great.

      • Roar Guru

        June 14th 2018 @ 11:57am
        Cat said | June 14th 2018 @ 11:57am | ! Report

        Sorry, but as a Cats fan, there was nothing unexpected about losing to Sydney badly… its an annual rite of passage by now.

        • June 14th 2018 @ 1:09pm
          Christo the Daddyo said | June 14th 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

          Ha ha – I did ponder that as I typed it! That is an odd record isn’t it…makes very little sense at all…:)

          • Roar Guru

            June 14th 2018 @ 1:33pm
            Cat said | June 14th 2018 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

            At least the Cats paid them back a bit in the finals last year. I just chalk it up to every team having a bogey side. Sydney is clearly the Cats.

    • Roar Guru

      June 14th 2018 @ 1:26pm
      DingoGray said | June 14th 2018 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

      Swans just have way of staying in games.

      I remember sitting down and watching the Hawks game earlier this year and Hawks pretty much dominated the game
      yet continued to really put pressure on the scoreboard.

      The Swans then towards the back ended started to even things up and ended up wining the game, pretty much being in 2nd gear.

      Against the Lions, similar theme only reversed. Swans had a fair bit of the running early, then Lions really started to get some momentum in the game. Only again to see them put very pressure on the scoreboard.

      The Swans just have a way of soaking up that momentum without it costing them much on the score board.

      I expected a similar thing to happen tomorrow night.

      • June 14th 2018 @ 2:31pm
        Jim said | June 14th 2018 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

        The Swans are incredible at soaking up pressure and not conceding too much on the scoreboard when the opposition has the momentum. In their poorer performances last year though, they did concede heavily on the scoreboard in those times in the games, and I still fear that tendency continues to exist, lurking and waiting to bite them against the better teams.

        As a Swans fan, I think they’ll be pretty comfortable to turn at 9-4 if they get beat by West Coast – but 10-3 would really set them up for a good shot at top 4. But they have a relatively tough draw to come, and definitely have been unconvincing at times this season. But good teams win when far from their best – and the Swans have continued to get games into the ‘next gen’, with players like Florent, Hayward, Ronke in particular continuing to develop nicely, so the future continues to look good!

        Key to their chances going into finals imo will be ensuring Franklin is fully fit (I don’t think he is currently – look at his kicking for goal around 50 in recent weeks) and trying to get Hannerbrey fit (he is clearly carrying some ongoing problem – as his output is down), and of course keeping Sinclair on the park. A fit Reid and Melican will make a big difference when they return (if they return is probably more reasonable in the case of sick note Reid!).

        I don’t think we are good enough to go all the way at this stage – tomorrow will be an excellent test of where they are up to, as West Coast have been superb since we surprised them in Week 1. I hope its a cracker.

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