In the past Sydney Swans coach John Longmire has compared an AFL season to that of a marathon. With the winter sector now upon us, it’s where the contenders step up and the pretenders fade. Some teams wilt due to lack of talent, others simply due to the game’s intense physicality and long term injuries begin to rear their ugly head. In a keenly contested game at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday night, Sydney lost to a determined Geelong side by 12 points. They also lost key personel in Jarrad McVeigh,Kieren Jack and Dan Hannebery. All suffered game hindering injuries. McVeigh faces 6 weeks out of the game due to a broken collarbone, Jack a left knee medial ligament strain which should see him miss 3-4 weeks and Hannebery a calf strain (a possible 1-2 week miss). McVeigh’s injury is of a concern as his career is nearing an end. It could be his last game for the Swans. His return could hinge on just how far Sydney’s finals campaign runs.
For Geelong they had to step up to salvage their 2018 season. They had lost their 2 previous games and were hanging on to 8th position on they AFL ladder. On Thursday night, they responded magnificently to the challenge, bringing plenty of aggression and application to the contest. Their young brigade in players such as Quinton Narkle, Tim Kelly, Jack Henry and Brandan Parfitt all did their jobs and have brought a new dynamic to the Cats team that has recently relied on their experienced stars in Joel Selwood, Harry Taylor, Tom Hawkins, Gary Ablett Jnr and Patrick Dangerfield. If the Cats has kicked straighter, this game would have been done and dusted well before the final term. Geelong booted 23 behinds and had 17 more scoring shots than the Swans.
Despite the injuries Sydney remained competitive and kept pace with Geelong. They were able to regain momentum and took the lead in the third quarter thanks in part to Josh Kennedy who was winning plenty of stoppage ball and centre clearances. However Geelong’s continued pressure wore down the Swans.
Patrick Dangerfield opened the Cats final quarter with a goal which was later answered by Sydney’s Oliver Florent. But it was to no avail as Geelong’s Tim Kelly kicked truly and put the Cats further ahead. Harry Taylor would ultimately seal the game, when he kicked truly with minutes go. It was ironic that Taylor would kick the last goal for Geelong as last week he missed a game winning opportunity after the final siren against the Western Bulldogs.
The second consecutive loss raises real concerns for Sydney’s premiership aspirations. They looked one-dimensional up forward, heavily relying on Lance Franklin who was able to craft 4 goals. Geelong were able to repel many moves forward by Sydney. Despite Isaac Heeney and Sam Reid being out of the side, there were scant excuses for the Swans to lack any real bite around the forward. Tom McCartin continued to show glimpses of being a key forward. He took some solid marks in packs and kicked a goal. The injuries to McVeigh, Jack and Hannebery come at bad time. It’s been well reported that Hannebery’s recent form is of serious concern. He is far from his former dominant self. He did not lay a single tackle for the game. The positives for Sydney are with it’s newer players. Oliver Florent played a serviceable game As did McCartin and Robbie Fox. Allir Allir continued his good form in the defence. Luke Parker, Zac Jones, Josh Kennedy and Jake Lloyd were also amongst the Swans best. For the Cats, Tim Kelly was superb, with Mitch Duncan and Joel Selwood also playing standout games.
Thankfully the Swans (5th, 10 wins, 6 losses) will have a 10 day break to recuperate before taking on North Melbourne (9th, 9 wins, 6 losses) in another significant game with regards to finals chances. Geelong moved up once spot (7th, 9 wins, 6 losses) They face another tough road game on Thursday night against Adelaide (11th, 7 wins, 8 losses). It’s a must win game for both teams and should be a fascinating contest.
SYDNEY 2.2 3.2 7.4 9.5 (59)
GEELONG 1.4 4.11 5.16 8.23 (71)
Sydney: Franklin 4, Parker 2, Robinson, McCartin, Florent
Geelong:Hawkins 2, Kelly 2, Narkle, Fogarty, Dangerfield, Taylor
Sydney: Lloyd, Aliir, Franklin, Kennedy
Geelong: Duncan, Kelly, J. Selwood, Tuohy
Sydney: Kieran Jack (knee), Jarrad McVeigh (collarbone), Dan Hannebery (calf)
Umpires: Jacob Mollison, Andrew Stephens, Matt Stevic
Official crowd:34,363 at the SCG