Last week Sydney Swans full forward Lance Franklin looked tired and some experts were saying he was done for the 2018 season. A nagging heel injury looked to have slowed Franklin who struggled in a losing game against Essendon. Fast forward a week later, and Lance Franklin’s alleged demise was nothing but a furphy. In a gripping match against the top 4 placed Collingwood, Sydney and Lance Franklin were back to their best with a last gasp 2 point win. Swans teenager Ben McCartin kicking a miracle goal whilst lying on the ground, sending the ball slowly but surely trickling through a maze of players for the winning score.
The stakes for both teams were high with the opportunity to play finals now only weeks away. Collingwood were looking to protect 4th spot, whilst Sydney were outside the top eight on 9th position and a loss would have made finals a pretty tough ask. Collingwood began strongly via excellent ruck work from Brodie Grundy. In the forward zone, it was a shoot out of sorts between Lance Franklin and Travis Varcoe. Both men were superb up forward. For the Magpies, Varcoe’s opportunistic play saw him kick 3 goals, whilst Lance Franklin was back to his dominant best also kicking three. The big American forward in Mason Cox put Collingwood ahead at the quarter-time break.
The Pies dominated the second term. Again Brodie Grundy was winning in the ruck contest against Callum Sinclair. Jack Crisp and Taylor Adams were hard in and around the contest, whilst in defense Tom Langdon kept the Sydney forwards quiet. Collingwood took a handy 17 point lead as both sides headed to the sheds for the half-time break. The downside to Collingwood was the significant loss of defender Darcy Moore. Moore suffered a hamstring strain and did not return for the remainder of the match.
The Swans came out with a much better work rate in the third quarter. They began to apply pressure to the Collingwood midfield and their tackling was excellent. The made 15 more tackles to Collingwood’s eight for the quarter. In scoring terms, Sydney scored goals via Jordan Dawson, Franklin (2 goals), Josh Kennedy and Ben Ronke. The Swans defense was utterly miserly allowing zero goals for the Magpies in the 3rd term. Sydney’s dour defenders in Dane Rampe, Aliir Aliir and Nick Smith simply stopped the scoring ability of the Pies. Alex Johnson played his part as well. The well documented story of Johnson who was playing his first AFL game since the Swans premiership of 2012 was proving to be extremely valuable particularly around the centre-half back area. It was a remarkable effort from a man who has faced 5 knee re-constructions.
At the start of the final quarter, it looked like Sydney would run away from the Magpies when Lance Franklin kicked a smart snap goal on the run which brought a massive roar from the big Sydney crowd. To Collingwood’s credit they came back strongly. If not for inaccurate kicking, the Magpies should have taken the game. Mason Cox who has been normally on target missed two very getable goals. Will Hoskin-Elliott was the opposite for Collingwood. He made sure of the opportunities presented, including a superb shot from the boundary line on a tight angle. Travis Varcoe broke through the Sydney defense and the Pies were in front with little time left. In the mad scramble of the last minutes, Sydney somehow found a way to propel the ball forward where Tom McCartin kicked the freakish goal that won the game for the Swans. It was a pulsating encounter on a day where 4 games were decided by less than a kick and a round where 5 games were decided by less than a goal. It was an amazing weekend of AFL football.
Post game, Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley was obviously very disappointed with the outcome. Buckley lamented the fact that him team had lapsed in concentration during the third quarter where his team failed to score a goal “We played three quarters and you can’t afford do that against good opposition. Our third quarter was really poor, the Swans lifted and played some really good footy. We just fell away from our contest and defense and weren’t able to control the game at all for 30 minutes”
Sydney Swans coach John Longmire was obviously upbeat after the tense result and especially with the third quarter effort “We haven’t really played like that for the past couple of weeks. We made a couple of mistakes in the last quarter, but it took a couple of really good efforts to get back in front.
The more things change the more things stay the same. The Sydney Swans did a really cool thing on the weekend. They acknowledged their club’s history by wearing a commemorative jersey celebrating 100 years since the old South Melbourne team won the VFL premiership against Collingwood in 1918 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The jersey looks fabulous with it’s distinctive red sash. South players of the day would sometimes pin the red sash on the reverse diagonal. The 2018 version would see the names of the 1918 premiership players making up the composite of the sash. It was a nice gesture by the club. Remarkably both games were decided in the final minutes, and just like the 1918 version the margin was less than a kick. According to press reports of the day, Chris Laird for South Melbourne soccered the ball off the ground in the final seconds to snatch a famous 5 point victory. It’s fair to say Tom McCartin’s goal was just as dramatic. 1918 Grand final Score: South Melbourne 9.8-62 defeated Collingwood 7.15.47
The road to the AFL finals continues to remain a suspenseful script. This time the Sydney Swans (8th, 12 wins, 7 losses) face a determined Melbourne (4th, 12 wins, 7 losses) outfit on Sunday afternoon at the MCG. The Demons will be keen to cement a top 4 spot. Positionally, Collingwood (6th, 12 wins, 7 losses) dropped from 4th to 6th and have a must win game against the much improved Brisbane Lions (16th, 4 wins, 15 losses) at the MCG next Saturday night .
SYDNEY 3.2 4.4 9.6 11.7 (73)
COLLINGWOOD 4.1 7.3 7.6 10.11 (71)
Sydney: Franklin 6, Dawson 2, Kennedy, Ronke, McCartin
Collingwood: Varcoe 4, Hoskin-Elliott 2, Cox, Daicos, Sidebottom, Grundy
Sydney: Franklin, Aliir, Rampe, McVeigh, Parker
Collingwood: Grundy, Langdon, Adams, Crisp, Varcoe, Hoskin-Elliott
Collingwood: Darcy Moore (hamstring)
Umpires: Curtis Deboy, David Harris, Shane McInerney
Official crowd: 39,238 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Moore Park, Sydney New South Wales, Australia