There was one huge story coming out of the Sydney win over the Cats. If you don’t know what it was by now, I suggest you drag yourself out from under the rock you’ve been hiding under and pay attention, as the greatest forward of his era became just the sixth man in history to clock 1000 goals at the highest level.

Look, I’m going to do a whole section on Lance Franklin, the way he set up and worked into the game, and the entire scenario that saw him kick his thousandth goal, but there was a lot more to this game than just that moment… not that you’d know it.

This was a Sydney team staking their claim as a contender in 2022. After disposing of the Giants in a high-quality outing last week, taking on the Cats, with one of the stingiest defences around in recent years, provided a different hurdle to leap. Not only did they clear it, they hit the ground running and now look to take on the reeling Dogs next Friday – what a game that is shaping to be.

Geelong looked flat. Dangerfield was way down, as were Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron. None of them showed much passion, as though they were resigned to the fact they were a sideshow to the main event that may or may not occur at some point in the game. However, much of their ineffectiveness can be attributed to the work put into them by the Swans – I’ll get to that.

So, as the footy world celebrates the incredible achievement by Buddy – possibly the last time we’ll see someone reach this mark – here at The Mongrel, we will delve into all aspects of the game as per usual. It’s what we do.

Here are the Things You May Have Missed Whilst Concentrating On Lance Franklin.

 

Just before I kick-off, I love Swans Footy at the moment. Last year, this team played such an exciting brand of footy and this year, it seems they’re at it again. What a privilege to cover this game – if you’re a Sydney fan reading this, please take the time to enjoy what you’re seeing from this group – cohorts of players like this don’t come around that often. Anyway… on with the review.

 

HEENEY STEALING THE SHOW

There we were at halftime, with the Swans enjoying a handy 27-point lead. All seemed well, but there was a type of malaise over the crowd. Yes, they were happy that their team was winning, but it felt as though many were there to witness history, and a win was superfluous to their night at the footy.

It was a bit of a shame, as Isaac Heeney was turning it on and demonstrating just why he is the next big thing in the Harbour City. His four first-half goals set the Swans alight, and with Buddy restricted to just a single goal in the opening two quarters, it looked as though Heeney was determined to make sure the Swans fans didn’t leave the game completely disappointed.

Heeney is a nightmare matchup – seriously, opposition coaches would wake in a cold sweat wondering how in the hell they’re going to counter his skill set. If they throw a versatile runner on him to go with him through the midfield, he uses his power to outmark them and manoeuvre them out of position. If they use a bigger body to take away his strength advantage, he tears them apart at ground level. Add to this his ability to read the footy off the pack, which is usually the domain of smaller forwards, and you have a package that can take over a game and put his stamp on it each and every week.

I had Heeney amongst the Swans’ best last week, and he was right up there again in this one. When the game was there to be won, it was Heeney doing the work to win it.

His first goal was a gift, courtesy of a downfield free kick when Harry Cunningham was taken high after disposing of the footy, and it set the wheels in motion for Heeney to get up and about. He capitalised on a Mark Blicavs mistake when the Cats defender was pinged for a deliberate out of bounds, and then pressured Tom Stewart out of the footy to allow Will Hayward to snag a running goal.

All eyes were on Buddy, but Heeney was revelling in the freedom that afforded him. As Geelong tightened up on Franklin, Heeney got off the chain, and it was his work through the kiddle and inside fifty that set up the Sydney win. He finished with 21 touches, five goals straight, and five tackles in a masterful performance in the dual mid/forward role.

How good could Heeney be?

Good enough to be the best player on the best team in the biggest game of the year? Hmmmm… makes ya wonder, doesn’t it? Sometimes you see players that just look like they’re built for the big stage – that is the way I see Isaac Heeney. Now that he is settled in his role in the team (there was a time when he was used all over the park), he is developing the type of consistency that all great players have. After two weeks, he is averaging 23 touches and four goals.

People, we might just be seeing the start of something big in Sydney, and as much as the attention will be diverted at times, Isaac will be the star of the show when it matters most.

 

CALLUM MILLS PLAYING ACCOUNTABLE FOOTBALL

Coming into this game, the way the Swans handled Patrick Dangerfield was always going to be of interest, particularly given the form he brought into the contest. I wondered whether James Rowbottom would get the job in a run-with role, given he seems to have slotted in nicely to the position vacated by George Hewett, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Callum Mills go head-to-head with the Brownlow Medallist.

From there, I was a little shocked to see just how easily Mills worked both to contain Danger in the first half, and run off him to collect plenty of the footy on his own.

I am always big on assessing players that do the work when the game is there to be won. Last week, I copped some criticism for rating St Kilda’s Jack Hayes above Essendon’s Nic Martin in terms of their respective games, but I felt confident that Hayes’ efforts allowed the Saints back into the game, whilst Martin’s three late goals in what was a dead rubber last quarter were little more than stat-padding.

It didn’t go over well.

And so, when the Swans gained the ascendancy in this game, I took note as to who was best on the park at that point, and who was struggling. In the midfield, Callum Mills worked off his direct matchup (Dangerfield) to collect 16 touches and three clearances. On the flip side, Danger managed just four touches for the half – two of them effective.

It was a stark difference from last weekend, when Dangerfield continually burned the Essendon midfield out of the middle – this week, Mills was having none of it, and worked to position himself well at stoppages to prevent it. I reckon a fair bit of what Mills did will fly under the radar – he is that type of player – but if you’re looking for an unsung hero in this game, look no further than him. Not only did he send Dangerfield packing to the forward line, he did it in such a quiet, unassuming manner that if he had a side job as an assassin, I would not be at all surprised.

Mills finished with a game-high 29 touches and six clearances, in a very, very handy contribution, particularly for someone whose preseason was interrupted with Achilles soreness. That injury can be difficult to overcome, but evidently, Mills has come out the other side of that niggle perfectly.

 

TOM MCCARTIN SHUTTING DOWN HAWKINS

It’s not often you see Tom Hawkins beaten so convincingly that you start to wonder whether there was something wrong with him.

There wasn’t, but to make it look that way – it’s a great indication of just how professional and disciplined Tom McCartin was in closing down the champion forward.

Hawkins looked like Tony Lockett in the first half against the Bombers last week. He marked everything and didn’t look like being beaten. This week, the exact opposite occurred, and that was due to the work of Tom McCartin. Sure, he had some wonderful assistance in the form of his brother, who cut the Cats off at the knees in the first quarter with five intercept marks – note MARKS… not possessions – and basically blocked the leading lanes Hawkins loves to use, but it was Tom McCartin’s role to body-up against Hawkins in one-on-one contests, and he did that as well as anyone in recent history.

Hawkins is a contested mark beast. His size and power make him one of the more formidable opponents in the caper, but the fact he had no contested grabs at all in this contest attests to the fact that McCartin stuck to him like glue.

Earlier this year in our season preview, I wondered whether Tom McCartin could be rated in the top handful of defenders in the league by the end of the season. Performances like this against one of the best in the game make me stop wondering and start believing that he can. At 22, he is still a baby, but he is growing into the role all the time. This was perhaps his biggest scalp to date.

 

THE FIRST QUARTER OF PADDY MCCARTIN

Whilst we’re having a McCartin-fest, it would be remiss of me to gloss over just how impressive Paddy McCartin was in the first quarter of this game.

So often, a first-quarter performance can set the tone for the remainder of the contest, and with the way Paddy was clunking marks across half-back, it became pretty apparent that whatever the Cats were trying… he had it well and truly worked out.

Drafted as a full-forward, McCartin has always had great hands, but the Swans giving him another shot at the elite level could be viewed as a masterstroke as the season progresses. He finished with seven intercepts (all marks) in the game, as his presence inside defensive fifty once again proved to be an obstacle that the opposition struggled to navigate around. Basically, he is doing what Jeremy McGovern used to do a few years back… and that is about as high praise I can give an interceptor.

 

DANE RAMPE PUTTING ON A CLASS

There was one spoil in this game that told you everything you need to know about the way Dane Rampe plays footy.

Jeremy Cameron was on the lead. The kick to him was good – the type that a forward can fall into and give the defender little chance to impact. But not every defender has the skill Dane Rampe has. Matching the former Giant step-for-step, Rampe launched into a diving spoil just as Cameron lurched forward to take the mark. His fist crashed into the footy, sending the ball careening out of the area, and both he and Cameron to the deck.

A couple of seasons ago, Rampe was mocked by many in the AFL Media. He climbed a goal post and was ridiculed. A week or two later, he coughed up a vital 50-metre penalty that cost the Swans dearly. It was as though in a couple of weeks, he had undone all the work that had seen him crowned an All-Australian in 2016. People have short memories in that regard.

Rampe has not lost a step. At 31, he is still highly capable of taking the best and most dangerous forward on a weekly basis, and his game on Jeremy Cameron in this one deserves to be singled out. He was held goalless, and Rampe forced him far and wide to collect his disposals. Once the ball was inside 50, Rampe went to work, limiting JC’s impact. He had six rebound fifties in this one, and his help defence on Tom Hawkins went without mention for the entire broadcast.

But we didn’t miss it at The Mongrel. Whenever Cameron ran up the ground looking for touches, Rampe was there to help on Hawkins. I reckon Tom McCartin may owe him a couple of coffees this week.

 

THE TOM ATKINS GOAL THE COMMENTATORS COULDN’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT

This actually irked me – and not just because the crowd did not seem to give a damn about one of the best goals of the young season, but because the commentators almost no-sold it, as well. Actually, now I think about it, the efforts of James Brayshaw and Brian Taylor in this game were about as bad as I have heard from a team. They did not seem to give a crap about what was happening on the field unless it involved Franklin. They were flat, as though they were calling a game of checkers and the players were not hustling to make moves.

I get it – we all wanted to see Buddy kick 1000, but there were 45 other players involved in the game, and some of them were doing some pretty bloody impressive things. Not that you’d know by the lukewarm reception their efforts got from the best Channel Seven has to offer. Is it too late to coax Denis Cometti back?

Tom Atkins multiple efforts and running banana finish was the type of goal that would have brought the house down at Kardinia Park – it was a gutsy goal borne of hard work, but there was hardly a peep at the SCG, and the talking heads on commentary appeared far too interested in whether screw in stops permitted in games, or only moulded soles…

Come on, guys… you’re better than that!

Or maybe… you’re not.

 

BRAD CLOSE KEEPING THE CATS IN IT

A few times during the night, you may have heard the name of Brad Close. Apparently, he was “having a nice game”.

He was more than having a nice game – he was the only Geelong player busting his arse to keep them in the contest. Right from the outset, his dual tackles in the first quarter to win a holding the ball free kick indicated that he was here to play footy. If only some of his teammates felt the same…

On a night where the other Geelong small forward, Tyson Stengle, offered bugger all to the side, Close worked tirelessly to provide an option. Whether he was working up to the wings, or remaining dangerous inside 50, Close gave the Cats everything he had.

He finished with four goals of his own amongst ten score involvements, slotting his last on a great little handball from Tom Hawkins following the Buddy-break. It was a nice capper for him on a night where he had very few performing to the standard he set for himself.

 

THE LIZARD AT HALF-BACK AGAIN

Nick Blakey was reported in this game. Nah, I’m not joking – he was cited for a blow to the midsection on Jeremy Cameron as the forward attempted to mark on the wing. I’m not sure there was much in it – Cameron certainly didn’t look sore, and though he did drop the mark, there was no remonstrating at all from the Cats star.

For what it’s worth, I thought it was more a case of Blakey attempting to put pressure on Cameron than actually trying to hurt him. Looks as though he’ll be dealing with the ridiculous chook-lotto that is the Match Review Process, and we’ll see what comes of it. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the charge withdrawn, though.

Outside of that incident, Blakey slithered his way to 22 touches as his run through half-back once again gave the Swans plenty of drive and dash from half-back. They really are blessed at the moment in terms of talent that can fill that role – Braeden Campbell is doing his time across half-back as well, in a situation that will most likely see him follow the same development pathway as Callum Mills. Some players would be a little frustrated to be playing half-back after playing their whole junior career as a mid, but in seeing the way Mills transitioned from half-back to excellent mid last season, Campbell has the proof right in front of him that the Swans way of doing things works.

 

MISSING PERSONS ALERT

Tyson Stengle was good last week, huh?

Kicked four goals on debut, was clean with his hands… did some damage once the game was all over.

And then you have what he produced this week, which amounts to a steaming pile of manure. Could not take the ball cleanly all game, looked tentative and the one time he decided to give an opposition player a shove, he followed up by double grabbing at the footy and losing it. Yep… it was that kind of game for Stengle.

He really does strike me as the type of player that either experiences feast or famine, but what I really hope is that he does not turn into a downhill skier. He was great when the Cats were well on top last week, but when they needed him to do something this week, he was nowhere to be seen. He had a few mates, but when your best comes as part of a winning team and your worst as part of the losing team… I’m not sure that’s a reputation you’re really after.

 

THE CHAD

Last season, there was all this commotion about the young Swans and how they were carrying the team. Remember that?

Yes, they were good early – I think they may have scored two or maybe even three-straight Rising Star nominations to start the season – but it was more the 22-25 years olds that propelled Sydney into finals. The kids were good, but people got their wires crossed about them.

One of those kids, and one that actually did not get the credit he deserved from the AFL Media at the time, was Chad Warner. He is the type of player I view as an impact player. He can play anywhere and do anything. Need some scoring punch? He can roll off half-forward and hit the scoreboard. Need some outside run? Throw him on the wing. Need a bit of extra grunt? He’ll give it to you in the middle.

His versatility adds so much to the Swans at the moment, and he is looking more and more dangerous as the weeks roll on (and I am counting the preseason amongst that statement, for context).

Warner is creative with the footy, and forwards would love leading to him. It was only fitting that one of his three direct goal assists hit Buddy on the chest and gave him the chance to clock up his milestone goal. He was feeding everyone else – why not the big dog?

Warner is a bit of a warrior. Don’t let that smiley little 20-year-old face fool you – he looks battle-hardened already, and if the Swans are to make a serious challenge, Warner’s role, however that looks as the season evolves, will be vital to how far Sydney can go in September.

 

THE MAN

And now, we get to Buddy.

I’m not sure what I can say that hasn’t already been uttered about this bloke. I remember seeing him very early on playing for the Hawks. He was raw, but you could tell there was something about him. He ran like the wind and the power that he would exhibit as he ran along the wing – turf flying under his feet as he tore at it with his boots to get traction… seeing it up close was a little awe-inspiring. At that point, you knew he’d be good, but this good? Over this long?

I have to admit, I did not see this coming.

Buddy may turn out to be one of the last truly great forwards. Unless there is a sudden change in the way the game is played, with more focus on fast ball movement, less on zone defences, and more one-on-one opportunities, the days of someone threatening 1000 goals, let alone achieving it, could be gone.

We’ve been lucky to have him back over the last couple of seasons. There was a point a couple of years back when his body would not respond the way he was used to. He experienced multiple soft tissue injuries and that long-term deal with the Swans was seen more as a weight to carry than a wise investment.

Who’s laughing now?

Franklin has long been a big-game performer. If you can remember back to his dribbling goal in the 2011 Preliminary Final against Collingwood, it was the type of moment that gave me chills as an AFL fan. It should have been the moment that sent Hawthorn to the Grand Final, but some poor structure at the other end cost them. He was wonderful in the 2016 Grand Final loss to the Dogs, and though that is little solace for the fact he failed to add another flag to his collection, he has been an incredible drawcard in Sydney. To see him surrounded by thousands upon thousands of fans after slotting his 1000th goal… all I could do was smile.

For what it’s worth, Jack Henry did a pretty good job on him for most of the evening, but he could have dominated every contest bar four – Buddy only needed four to get it done. Under pressure, he slotted four-straight majors to join the likes of Dunstall, Ablett, and Plugger as goalkicking legends of our game, and we finish off this section of the review by simply saying thank you, Buddy.

Thank you for all the memories over the years. Thank you for bringing something special to the table in a sport where you get the feeling the AFL would prefer everyone followed a script. Thank you for the highlights, the thrills, the incredible goals, and the genuine excitement you brought to the game. Every accolade you get, you thoroughly deserve – it has been an honour to watch your journey to 1000 and I hope there are quite a few more goals to come before all is said and done.

And maybe… just maybe this current crop of Swans will be the ones to help you deliver something even more precious than 1000 goals to this club.

 

OTHER BITS

Interesting to see Josh Kennedy play on the wing in this game after being deployed mostly across half-back last week. It still does not feel natural to see him as an outside player, but he was much better this week than last. Maybe it’s a role he will grow into? Besides, he will be very handy once the grounds get heavy and the contested footy becomes harder to win. I can see him moving back inside on a needs basis.

A nice shirtfront from Zach Tuohy on the bloke running onto the field to celebrate with Buddy. If only his team applied that type of physicality to the Swans during the game…

Just kidding – Tuohy was an absolute gentleman, seeing the bloke drop his wallet, picking it up and chasing him down to return it. I know you guys would have kept it, wouldn’t ya?

I neglected to mention Will Hayward much above. I reckon he has a six or seven-goal game in him at some point… but I also think it could be bordered with games where he barely touches it. There is something about him the Swans have not yet unlocked, but once they find it, he could be a monster to deal with.

How many hard chases did you see Geelong blokes give up on, or half-heartedly go through the motions on during this game? I go back to what I said above – it must have been weird feeling as though you were a sideshow when you were used to being the main attraction.

Hayden McLean is lucky to be walking after his crash landing in the first quarter. It was an awkward fall from a pretty decent height – the margin for error in situations like that is so minuscule…

Luke Dahlhaus might be on his last legs as a footballer. I’m not sure what he’s adding to this Geelong team at the moment, but the form of Brad Close would give the Cats a small forward combination of Gryan Miers, when healthy, Tyson Stengle, when willing to play footy and not stand around, and Close. Not a bad threesome (if I only had a dollar for every time I heard that… I’d have one dollar). Consistency will be the key for that trio. Two of the three have to be up in any given game for things to click.

Not much made of Joel Selwood equalling the record for captaining games with Sticks Kernahan – I guess there was only room for one celebration this week and they’ll make a bigger deal of it when Selwood breaks it next week?

And how about all the nuffies on social media claiming Franklin would be “covered in covid” after his 1000-goal celebration as though people were lathering themselves up in it and smearing some type of diseased lotion all over him? There are some people incapable of being happy for someone else – I pity them. I’m so glad we got to witness this in 2022 and not in the midst of last year’s panic. That would have been horrible. If you ever wanted a sign that these Covid BS measures are over, watch the celebratory footage again. That was thousands of people happily living their lives and being part of history. People power at the SCG – I loved it.

 

And that’ll do me. Another impressive Sydney win. If you weren’t already on this team, you may wish to consider it. They play such a great style, and with kids like Gulden, Warner, and even McInerney, who was out this week, they have an attack that is hard to repel and really, really easy to watch. I’d love to see them go deep into September.

As for the Cats, this was a Jekyll and Hyde performance when compared with last week. So many players were down and offered very little. They get the Pies next week in what could be a crucial game. I might even head to the ‘G to watch it.

 

Want more of this kind of stuff? Join The Mongrel to get it!