Looking ahead: Lewis Jetta gazes upfield during the round 16 AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Hawthorn Hawks at ANZ Stadium. Photo: Matt KingLast year’s grand final was supposed to be an aberration for Sydney, a one-off flop which was not a true representation of the Swans. It might be time to readdress that.
Last week it was Fremantle’s turn and on Saturday night it was Sydney put to the sword by this mighty Hawthorn team, whose fans have every reason now to dream of a three-peat.
Of course, premierships are not handed out in mid July. And the Hawks, as it stands, may still have to head west in the first week of September, but there is compelling evidence they are the team to beat.
The Swans are no slouches – a top-four finish still beckons – and they are still very much in the premiership race but they are going to need someone else to beat Hawthorn for them.
This loss was not as humiliating as that of last year’s decider only because it was not on the biggest stage of all. But it was another example of their struggles against the Hawks, who have now won nine of the past 13 encounters between the two sides.
When the Swans have won, they have had to be at their absolute best and even then had to rely on the Hawks to be slightly off the boil – either through injury or poor kicking in front of goal.
Unfortunately for John Longmire’s men, the Hawks are in rare form, their only concern seemingly being how they can maintain this until the first week of October.
The qualities which make the Hawks such a powerhouse side were again on show. They defend like all gun teams do but are so dangerous in attack.
Last week they piled 17 goals against the miserly Dockers, this time they slammed 23 against one of the most miserly defences of the modern era.
Even if you can stop Jarryd Roughead, Jack Gunston will bob up. If it’s not him it will be Cyril Rioli or Paul Puopolo.
As one sided as the match became it was not until the second half that the Hawks truly had control of the game. That the Hawks already had a five-goal lead was ominous for the Swans.
Lance Franklin passed the 700-goal career mark and Adam Goodes belied his age with a strong effort but there were few Swans who made an impact.
The Hawks, so clinical and ruthless, were high class across the board though Cyril Rioli, Luke Hodge and Grant Birchall stood out.
Up until half-time, the Swans were actually matching Hawthorn in general play. They even had a slight edge in contested possessions and more entries inside forward 50. But this was a perfect illustration of quality over quantity.
Hawthorn’s dominance started not from the middle, as is the modern way, but from their back half. At times they had a row of five patrolling their last line of defence – the product not of the Hawks flooding back but rather the Swans forwards pushing up the ground.
Inevitably, the Swans would fire long bombs, most often to an outnumbered Franklin, only for the Hawks, with extra men, to run the ball out from defence through the likes of Hodge and Isaac Smith. This usually spells trouble as no team is more precise with their kicking as Hawthorn.
Three of the Hawks’ first four goals came from counter attacks, their speed of ball movement preventing the Swans from pushing back and allowing Hawthorn’s forwards even money contests.
The game changed complexion in a dramatic three-minute burst entering time-on in the second. Not surprisingly, it was Franklin who provided the spark with three in quick succession.
His 700th, and second for the night, invigorated his teammates and his 701st brought the crowd to life.
The Swans were suddenly more dangerous in attack due as much to their improved ball movement as increased red and white representation in their forward 50.
When Jarrad McVeigh made it four on the trot, the margin, which had been as high as 42 points, had been snapped to 18. It proved as good as it got for the Swans.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.