Dress rehearsal for bigger encounters in September

Yes, it was one of the matches of the round and it was played in the early stages like a mini-final. The result went to the Sydney Swans over the West Coast Eagles, however neither coach would claim bragging rights or saw anything other in the result than just 4 premiership points. Sydney coach John Longmire post-game wouldn’t buy into the speculation that the Swans are now real premiership contenders. Eagles coach Adam Simpson wasn’t too disappointed in the result. He thought there were positive signs against a very good football team in Sydney. No doubt these two teams will rekindle past intense rivalries come September and we got a small glimpse of the possibilities on Friday night at the SCG.

Uncharacteristic errors. Jeremy McGovern sill played a solid game at the back for the Eagles. Photo: Jodie Newell

It was a bizarre game in that Sydney failed to kick a goal in the first and last quarters. It was strange seeing Jeremy McGovern make uncharacteristic mistakes yet still play a reasonably good game in defense taking 6 marks. Lance Franklin kicked 2 goals, but it could have been more, he missed several times with 5 behinds. The key to the Swans win was their accurate goal kicking when it mattered. Whilst they didn’t kick a goal in the first quarter, Sydney kicked at 100% accuracy in the second with 5 straight goals. 4 out of those five were set shots on goal. Sink the putt they say in golf, catches win matches in cricket, ball security wins you college football games. In AFL relevance, Sydney’s straight kicking was a big factor in their win over West Coast.The Swans posted similar accuracy in the third quarter. They kicked 5 goals for the term, 4 were consecutive goals. It was excellent scoreboard pressure and it ensured that West Coast could not gain any traction despite replying a couple of times.

The other story to the game was the Sydney defense. Heath Grundy was celebrating his 250th game and was ever reliable teaming up with Nick Smith, Zac Jones, Ollie Florent and Jake Lloyd as they repelled a combined 31 inside 50 attempts from the West Coast attack. Aliir Aliir made a welcome return to the Swans D. It was his first game for season 2018 and it was superb. He took some solid marks, went hard at the ball and rebounded 4 inside 50 kicks from the Eagles. The Swans faithful cheered every time Aliir touched the ball and like Gary Rohan, is fan favorite. Allir had some handy figures at games end with 18 disposals and 10 marks.

The new breed of Eagles. Liam Duggan’s disposal efficiency of Friday was at 94.7% from 19 touches. Photo: Jodie Newell

The impressive part for West Coast was their unrelenting pressure in the first half of the game. They tackled and harassed Sydney and forced them into errors. There were no easy possessions nor were there any clear avenues to pass the ball onto a team mate due to the intense pressure from all of the Eagles players. If you were looking for a “mini final” scenario, it was during this period of the game where the football was seriously intense. Clean, hard fought out football at the highest level. Make no mistake about it, these two football teams are very good. West Coast have some fine young players in Liam Duggan, Willie Rioili, Jake Waterman and Jackson Nelson. On a warm spring day and the exuberance of youth, one wonders just how far this Eagles team can go during the finals campaign which they will surely play a big part. Elliot Yeo was the best for West Coast with  29 disposals, eight tackles and two goals. The ruck duel was an entertaining affair between Nic Naitanui and Callum Sinclair, with Naitanui winning the hit-out count 32-16.

Ben Ronke “The Find of the Season” Nevermind the goal kicking Ben has an unbelievable work-rate. Photo: Jodie Newell

My thoughts about Sydney were they were good, but will they be found out on a warm day on a fast deck?? I think not. They to have some good young players. Oliver Florent is flourishing and Tom McCartin is getting better with every game. The absolute find of the season for Sydney has been Ben Ronke. The lad has serious pace, a hunger for goal, but more importantly chases down any opponent who has the ball and exerts enormous pressure. Any AFL coach worth their salt couldn’t do wrong, by showing game highlights during a Monday review of Ben Ronke’s chasing efforts, particularly on Friday night. Ronke is an exciting player and his goal on the run in the third quarter had the crowd roaring.

Kieran Jack kicks truly on Friday night against West Coast. Photo: Jodie Newell

The AFL ladder sees Sydney (3rd, 10 wins, 3 losses) equal top on 40 points with Richmond (1st, 10 wins, 3 losses) and West Coast Eagles (2nd, 10 wins, 2 losses) Sydney will have a week off before they meet Richmond in another finals dress rehearsal this time in Melbourne at the Dockland  (Etihad Stadium) on Thursday June 28. Both teams will be coming off a bye and it will be a fascinating game. West Coast return home to Perth to play Essendon (13th, 5 wins, 7 losses) this coming Thursday night.

SYDNEY          0.3   5.3   10.6   10.12 (72)
WEST COAST   1.3   2.7   5.10   7.15 (57)

Sydney: Franklin 2, Papley 2, Ronke 2, Cunningham, Kennedy, Jack, Hayward
West Coast: Kennedy 2, Yeo 2, Ryan, Waterman, Lycett

Sydney: Lloyd, Kennedy, Aliir, Ronke
West Coast: Yeo, Duggan, Masten , Naitanui

West Coast:

Reports: –

Umpires: Curtis Deboy, Mathew Nicholls, Andre Gianfagna, Shane McInerney

Official crowd: 36,402 at the Sydney Cricket Ground

NB: It was a nice touch to see the awarding of the HMAS Sydney II trophy post-game. The trophy ( a large naval artillery shell) symbolizes the connection between New South Wales and Western Australia with the former home of the HMAS Sydney being Sydney town and it’s current resting place off the West Australian coast.  In the early stages of World War II on the 19th of November 1941 off the West Australian coast, Light cruiser, HMAS Sydney was attacked by the German cruiser the Kormaran. Both ships were sunk in the ensuing battle. Tragically all souls (645) perished on the Sydney. The loss shocked the Australian nation and for many years it remained a mystery as to what really happened. In March 2008, the wreck of the HMAS Sydney was located and many of those unanswered questions were solved with the discovery. It’s heartening to see such a significant part of Australian military history acknowledged in this manner. Kudos to the AFL, the Sydney Swans, The West Coast Eagles and the Royal Australian Navy.  The joint winners for the best on ground were Jake Lloyd for the Sydney Swans and Elliot Yeo of the West Coast Eagles. Sydney holds a 6-0 record for the HMAS II trophy.

The HMAS Sydney II during 1940 moored at a Mediterranean port on active duty during World War II

The presentation of the HMAS Sydney II trophy post game. Photo: Jodie Newell

About the Author

Jodie Newell
Love reporting on sports, politics, history and music