So I was a little miffed right from the outset of this game, and it might have only been me, but when you have two players retiring that have meant so much to your team, I reckon they deserve more than just a small “Thanks so-and-so” on the bottom of your banner.
Jarrad McVeigh is a Sydney premiership captain. There are not that many of them around, but in 2012, it was him leading this team to victory over the Hawks, and over Buddy Franklin.
Kieren Jack was a huge part of that victory as well. He’s also a Best and Fairest winner.
These two warriors poured their heart and soul into the Sydney Swans footy club for their entire career, and the huge image that greeted them on the Swans’ banner as they made their way onto the ground was that of Lance Franklin.
From a pure footy perspective, I am all on board with Buddy-palooza. He is a generational player, and has done things on the footy field I would probably not have dreamed of doing, but in terms of the Swans, he is a five year player. at that club Jarrad McVeigh has lived and breathed the Bloods culture. Kieren Jack sacrificed his body time and time again to be part of that group – they deserved more than just a token “Thanks” at the bottom of the banner.
But wait on… these banners have two sides, right? Why couldn’t the other side have a bit of a tribute to these blokes who have meant so much to the team over the years? And why not add in Heath Grundy and Nick Smith to the mix as well?
Nope – on that side was the generic “pride” statement.
I like the pride game. I like the rainbow numbers and 50 metre arc. It’s great that both St Kilda and Sydney make the effort to celebrate diversity in this regard, but when you have retiring champions of the team, you honour them properly and a token line at the bottom of the banner was a pretty disappointing gesture for people who had given so much.
The players, themselves, honoured those departing properly after the game when they chaired five players, including Franklin off the ground.
Look, maybe it was McVeigh and Jack not wanting to be on the banner – I’m not sure how cheer squad dynamics work, and I am pretty sure I don’t want to. All I know is what I see, and I saw a token gesture on a banner celebrating other things.
I’d be interested to hear what Sydney fans think of it, but to a Neanderthal like me… I thought it was putting a cause before honouring their champions, and it didn’t sit well.
Anyway, there was plenty to address in the game itself, and we should probably get to it.
Geez, this bloke is a find, isn’t he? His ability to read the ball in flight and drift in to mark was extremely valuable in this game, and when he had any space to deliver, he did exactly that, gift wrapping it for his teammates.
Dawson played just one game in 2017 before adding four to his total last year. It appears as though he has now got serious about things and he’s been rewarded with 20 games this year. He’s like one of those overnight sensations that have been toiling away for years, unnoticed.
He is wonderful overhead, and is rarely found out of position as the opposition moves the ball inside 50. As he can play either end of the ground, the Swans have another versatile swingman at their disposal to take the heat off Isaac Heeney, and also allow him to settle into a role… whenever John Longmire decides what his role will be.
It will be interesting to see how Dawson progresses in 2020. Now with the confidence that he can more than match it at this level, we could see him emerge as a genuine match-winner at either end of the ground
THE OLD FELLA IN THE MIDDLE
I will never get sick of watching Josh Kennedy ply his trade in the middle of the ground. Still powerful, still composed and still a star on his day, Kennedy had a game-high 11 clearances in this one. It is the fourth time this season, and the second game in a row he’s topped double figures in that category.
If you watched on TV, you would’ve heard whichever talking head was yapping state that he has had to get used to playing more outside in order to afford others opportunities in the middle. Well, that’s all well and good, but he is still the best option when it comes to winning the footy in the contest for the Swans. George Hewett is a chance to take that mantle eventually, but whilst Kennedy can still do what he did today, there is a definite place in the best 22 for him for a while yet.
He will have more off days than he used to, but for the next year or so, there’ll be more good ones than bad ones.
THE LAST QUARTER METAPHOR
So the other great story of this game was Sam Rowe finally playing his hundredth game. It was also set to be his last.
Into the last quarter, Rowe was given two opportunities to hit the scoreboard – one a very difficult shot from the boundary, and a second from a very gettable distance with little angle to speak of.
He finished 0.2 for the quarter. Hardly the send off the Saints were hoping for.
In contrast the Swans had their men all hit the scoreboard. McVeigh ran forwardand was fed by Tom Papley for a goal. Buddy hit the scoreboard after leaving Jake Carlisle (who looks like he really does not give a stuff at times) in his wake and goaling from the square, and Kieren Jack had a bit of a canter through half forward to slot a goal on the run.
It was party time for the Swans in front of goal and St Kilda played party pooper to themselves. It was the entire game in a microcosm. The Swans made the most of their chances and the Saints blew theirs. Rinse and repeat.
It must be so frustrating to be a Saints fan at the moment. Their kicking all over the park is horrendous, and their handballs seem to consistently drop a metre or two short, or behind the intended target, slowing their play and allowing for defenders and mids to rush back and glog up what should be good forward entry.
Lonie, Newnes, Dustan and Billings hacked at the footy all day long, all unable to hit a target. Then at the other end, you had blokes like Ben Ronke, who has been pretty poor overall this season, hitting targets inside 50 like it was a training drill.
We often hear about who the Saints are targeting in the off-season, and who they’re going to splash some cash on. I reckon there are a few who should be floated as potential trade bait. Take your pick as to whom.
DAN HANNEBERY COULD BE THE ANSWER AFTER ALL
Full disclosure – I thought the recruitment of Dan Hannebery was a monumental mistake. I even wrote a cilumn about it flagging my concerns about whether his recruitment was a huge error, but once/if he gets fit, this could be a real boon to the Saints.
But why? What’s changed?
Well, I’m glad I asked myself. You see, the Saints have bugger all in terms of on-field leadership. There was a point in the third quarter, with about six or seven minutes to go, and St Kilda really needed someone to step up and stop the rot. The Swans were applying the pressure and looked as though they were going to blow the game open. The Saints were wilting and needed someone to say “enough is enough.”
They really needed someone to put their hand up, crash on in and make a statement, but they do not have that sort of player.
Dan Hannebery could be that sort of player for them, but he has to get his body right first. By this time of the game, he looked cooked. His second efforts had fallen away and he had become a bit of a one way runner, but earlier in the game, he was the Saints’ best in the clinches. The head to head clash against McVeigh that saw Hannebery bodyline the ball and McVeigh wisely get out of the way demonstrated that Hanners will go when it’s his turn, irrespective of who is coming the other way.
He just needs the legs under him to be able to do it all game… because no one else will at St Kilda.
At half time, I had Hannebery as one of the top three on the ground, such was his impact on the contest. If he gets a clean run at pre-season and doesn’t break down, he could be the circuit breaker the Saints midfield needs.
He had 28 touches for the day and was instrumental in keeping the Saints in the game, but those legs looked as though they were feeling mighty heavy come the last quarter. Next season, Dan… next season. Hope you’re fit for the start of it.
Oh, and lovely touch by Hanners being one of the blokes to chair McVeigh off the ground. Good feels right there.
Ever wanted to hear commentators barrack? You should’ve listened to the blokes commentating this one. Despite there being 43 others out there, I reckon over 50% of the commentary was either about Buddy, wondering where Buddy was, or talking about what they could do to get Buddy more involved.
It was as he could’ve changed his name to Poochie and it would’ve fit perfectly.
I wanted Buddy to do well, and four goals is a decent return, but I also wanted to see Hannebery play well against his old side, McVeigh hit some targets lace out, and Kieren Jack win some tough contested footy.
In the end, I got them all, which is great… but I could’ve done without the cheerleading from the impartial commentators.
Oh, and by the way, I thought Nathan Brown did a pretty good job on him when they were matched up in genuine one-on-one contests. He was beaten once as far as I can remember.
SYDNEY’S FUTURE FORWARD LINE
Is there a question that Nick Blakey will be a key forward? I heard it questioned today, but I have zero doubts that he will make the leap from hard leading half forward to a contested marking goal kicker soon enough. They have someone occupying that spot for the near future, anyway.
He and Tom McCartin have the makings of a powerful forward duo in the years to come for the Swans, and if you’ve been keeping an eye on them, there’d really be no doubt in your mind as to just how good they could be as a tandem.
Realistically, I expect Buddy to be in and out of the side over the next couple of years (actually, I had this horrible feeling that should he get injured in this game, he may have pulled the pin!) and that’ll give the Blakey/McCartin combination plenty of time to bloom.
The Swans have replenished their forward stocks whilst having a player the likes of Buddy on the books. It’s impressive stuff, and whilst they have had a bit of pain this season, the future is shining brightly.
Overall, we’re not talking about a game that will be a rewatchable after this weekend. It was messy and scrappy for long periods – including about five minutes in the second quarter that were disgusting. The last quarter was wonderful for Swans fans, but a combination of questionable St Kilda decision making, skills and free kicks not paid at crucial moments meant that they played the role of sacrificial lambs to the Swans’ slaughter perfectly.
We’ll be doing deep dives on both these teams in the next couple of weeks, recapping the seasons, looking at potential moves and deals they could make to improve, and assessing where they’re at headed into the off-season.
They may both be gone for the season, but the footy NEVER stops at The Mongrel. Keep your eyes peeled for the best season recaps you’ll find as the finals tick closer.