The Syndey Swans faced off against the Geelong Cats yesterday in a Round 11 matchup, and here are my takeaways from the match.
1. Swans are taking two steps forward, one step back
Another week, another close game, another loss. There is no doubt that the Swans are playing significantly better footy than the first six weeks of the season, but a lack of finish is really costing the Swans current success.
Instantly the eight goals and 15 behinds do not help the cause, but the concerns go much deeper than the scoreline. When looking back at the match it is easy to love the development of players like Jordan Dawson, Tom Papley and Allir Allir this year, with all having a noteworthy impact on the game.
However, it’s hard to justify a good loss. Collingwood last week came close, but I don’t have the same sentiment to the match this week.
Tom McCartin and Lewis Melican were dominated by their direct match up and really struggled to find any consistent impact. Similarly, Sam Reid and Ryan Clarke, who were nothing short of outstanding the week before, had no real influence on the contest at any time.
A first versus 15th battle has historically lacked any significance, however, this match was genuinely good to watch and I am truly beginning to like this young Swans outfit. But these losses make me question if these struggles are going to be more than a short-term concern for the Swans.
2. Battle of the X factors turned into a battle for impact
Most of the discussion when Daniel Menzel was announced on the team list on Thursday were about his return to the cattery, but the match-up between himself and Gary Rohan is what really enticed me to this game. Despite both players playing very different roles at their former clubs, there is no denying that they were able to turn matches for their teams rapidly and that swing could make or break a team’s season.
For me, Gary Rohan’s 2017 match winner against the Bombers is a perfect example of this.
The match-up against the cats looks set to be a battle of the x-factor players but ended up being a non-result with Rohan notching four touches and Menzel collecting seven alongside a very scrappy fourth-quarter goal. Despite Rohan looking prime to bag a few or take a hanger, nerves must have got to him. Menzel lacked a bit of AFL match play but his well-crumbed goal is hopefully a sign of things to come. Either way, I am happy to call it a draw between the two electrifying players…this time.
3. The Cats’ midfield runs the AFL at the moment
Patrick Dangerfield, Tim Kelly, Joel Selwood, Brandan Parfitt, Mitch Duncan, Zach Guthrie. I mean, how are you meant to compete with that? Geelong are now sitting two games clear atop the AFL ladder and it’s easy to see why.
Sometimes their defensive six can be underestimated, however, there is no mistake with their midfield. Dominant is the word I would use, straight up dominant. George Hewett found himself switching tags constantly during the second half trying to stop the bleeding, but Geelong just made sure to pass on the load to the next impressive midfielder to finish the job. With Parker and Hewett being the only Swans to make a noticeable impact, it’s hard to win the vital battle for the ball in the middle.
4. Dane Rampe is still the man for the job
After some scepticism about his role as captain the last few weeks due to very poor late-game decisions, Dane Rampe returned this week and really proved all critics wrong. With the Swans game plan being heavily based around that back six, a player like Dan Rampe is so vital to the Swans’ chances of winning a game.
With Tom Hawkins firing, Dangerfield looking ominous and the threat of Gary Rohan tearing open his former team’s defence, the Swans backline did well to hold the Cats to 85 points. And I personally put this down to Dane Rampe.
His first ten minutes were some of the bravest footy I’ve seen him play, taking opposition players on and using his lethal left boot to effectively move the ball out of Geelong’s forward 50. Results began to show with an early lead to the Swans in the first term but didn’t last with Geelong forwards beginning to take back the battle.
Most importantly, he finished the game with only one free kick against, which after a few ill-disciplined weeks, is always good to see. When you appoint co-captains at a club, each must have a different role in leading the team and Rampe’s control and leadership of that backline gives me hope and optimism for the future of the Swans.
5. Nic Nat is no longer the only Flying Fijian
I’m sorry but not even the purest Swans fan would not be amazed by the individual effort of Esava Ratugolea early in the third term. Not only is it difficult enough for a 200cm, 100kg giant to make a pick up on the run but to turn around and slot the goal was something else.
For a player that has only been playing the game for six years, it would be close to impossible to master such an athletic feat. This effort sits alongside Nic Naitanui’s 2015 mark of the year for me and just shows the impact that Islander born players can have on this uniquely Australian game.