Rope-a-dope Swans

Sydney Cricket Ground, Paddington, Sydney Australia

Forget being informed, forget having the numbers, forget the NAB challenge form,forget claiming to be an AFL pundit. Honestly and I readily and happily admit at this point of the 2016 season, I’m similar to a certain Sgt Schultz from Hogans Heroes, I know nothing.

The Sydney Swans at round five of the season are a seriously good football team having already beaten top six teams in the Greater Western Sydney Giants,the West Coast Eagles and their only loss thus far was away against Adelaide where the result could have gone either way. The Swans currently are the classic cliched blend of youth and experience.

We were told with the departures of Lewis Jetta, Rhyce Shaw, Craig Bird, Mike Pyke and the retirement of Adam Goodes that the Sydney Swans were going to fall big league, we’ll readily admit to that prediction. Instead the Swans have some incredibly talented youngsters in George Hewett, Tom Papley, and Isaac Heeney.Throw in new recruit Callum Sinclair (who was playing against his old side for the first time) and you have nothing short of  an impressive and revitalized team.

They are kicking goals, they’ve had 18 different goal kickers already for the season, with 9 Swans players booting goals on the weekend. They remain a real menace around the top of the 50 m arc and midfield.Their ferocity at the ball is akin to the flag winning side of 2012.

Then throw in the experience at the backline with Ted Richards (who had a day out, winning the HMAS Sydney trophy which has previously been won by some impressive names such as Priddis, Cox, O’Keefe, Parker, McVeigh and Hanneberry). Heath Grundy has taken over the “general” role at the backline that retiree Rhyce Shaw managed solidly and Dane Rampe’s game has stepped up to another level.

In the rucking department..the pre-season chatter was how Kurt Tippett would be a wasted resource. How very wrong that has proven to be. On Saturday, he matched it with Nic Naitanui and whilst he didn’t win the hit out count (32-25) he actually “allowed” Nick Nat to get the tap where his midfielders in Kieran Jack, Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker fed off this tactical ploy and gaining a lot of the ball.


Sydney kept West Coast on-ballers such as Luke Priddis and Luke Shuey under pressure all day

After missing the first two games, the return of hard nut midfielder in Ben McGlynn (21 disposals and kicked a goal) Seriously, this guy would run through a brick wall if his team mates asked him. His work ethic on Saturday was astounding and he reviled in the wet conditions. He was in the contest leading by example and getting the hard contested ball.

To West Coast credit, they did compete and get much of the ball, but it was the Swans pressure that nullified any forward movement.The Eagles kicked the ball under duress and weren’t allowed to play their power game and their “web” defense was more like old cobwebs being easily swept away by the tall forwards in Franklin and Tippett.

Jarrad McVeigh’s had his second game for the season and he’s settling in really nicely.He kicked 2 handy goals to seal the deal for the Swans and looked his typical self.

So what explains the turnaround? Coach John Longmire once firmly told us in 2014 we were looking too deep when we asked him about coaching / football staff leaving in the off season of 2013 in George Stone and Leigh Tudor. We begged to differ at the time as Stone has been a part of flag winning teams over many years and surely would have been a loss.

But now in 2016 some of the credit for this new revitalization has to be given to former Cats captain and dual premiership player in Tom Harley who is Sydney’s general manager of football. From the outside looking in the team looks well run by Harley. He is unassuming, (he wouldn’t be out of place depicting Clark Kent in a Superman movie!) He’s all smiles and surely has added an air of football professionalism required of a team in 2016.

Hawthorn are the current masters of having the ability to adapt to a changing list on and off the field and that’s why they remain continual winners.

One could argue the Swans have done something very similar.It’s remarkable in what they have achieved so early in the season.Sure, there is plenty of football to be played and the hard slog of winter where many a team list is tested by hamstrings, knee injuries and other issues that inevitably occur regardless of club position and player stature.

We predicted it would be a tough year for Sydney based AFL football, instead Sydney football is booming with the GWS Giants and Swans both in the top 8.

So what do we know?? that is the beauty, intrigue and attraction of sport. You never know what is around the corner.

SYDNEY SWANS     2.3    5.6    9.12    12.16 (88)
WEST COAST          3.3    4.3     7.3        7.7. (49)

Sydney Swans: Franklin 2, McVeigh 2, Papley 2, Sinclair, Heeney, Richards,McGlynn, Lloyd, Hewett
West Coast: Kennedy 2, Hill, Redden, Yeo, Shuey, Naitanui

Sydney Swans: Richards, Lloyd, Papley
West Coast: Hurn, Priddis, Naitanui

Sydney Swans: Jeremy Laidler (concussion), Harry Cunningham (ankle)
West Coast: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Donlon, Bannister, Findlay

Official crowd: 35,427 at the SCG

About the Author

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