The Suns shocked the Swans at the SCG in a result that, really, came as no shock to either team.
Does that make sense? It will…
Sydney was once again hot favourite to defend their home ground as they welcomed the Gold Coast Suns to town, however, as has happened two of the last three times the Suns visited the SCG, it was Gold Coast bringing the heat and the Swans failing to fire any important shots.
For those a little slow in the maths department, that is now three of the last four encounters at the SCG that the Suns have won, raising many questions not only about the ability of Sydney to defend their home turf, but of several of their players who look as though their games are not suited to the tighter confines of the SCG.
For the Suns, they battled against a team that successfully blanketed their number one ball-winner, but countered by pushing David Swallow into the guts, Izak Rankine to the high half-forward post, and Jack Lukosius to the other flank. The changes worked, but the knee injury to Lukosius in the third quarter left a sour taste in the mouths of Suns fans, as the man with no position limped from the ground and was subbed out.
So, who starred and who failed in the Suns’ win over the Swans? Let’s have a look with The Mongrel’s Rising Star/Falling Star review.
RISING STAR – DAVID SWALLOW
It seems funny to have him as a Rising Star, as he is more like the star that appears every now and again and has been around for a looong time.
But Swallow has not been played in roles that play to his strengths this season, and instead has found himself deployed across half-back, attempting to shut down an opponent in a role where leg speed and agility are paramount. His best position is in the cut and thrust of the midfield, where he can crash in, win the footy, or lay a tackle when he doesn’t get first hands on it.
He was at his best in that role in this game, notching 24 touches, laying seven tackles, and registering six clearances. The Suns lost Noah Anderson before the game, which could be looked at as a negative, but the net result was that Swallow stepped into the middle and, unlike Anderson, did not completely butcher the footy every time he got his hands on it.
FALLING STAR – ERROL GULDEN
Started on the wing and just looked lost for the entire game.
I am a big fan of this bloke, as anyone who reads my columns would know, and he will have a big future, but there is the possibility that on a congested ground, he was sucked into the contest too easily, leaving players on the outside (Brandon Ellis and Brayden Fiorini) to exploit him.
When you consider those guys had a combined 55 touches and Gulden managed just 11 for the game, you start to see that he was not getting to the right spots and making use of the limited space available at the SCG.
RISING STAR – IZAK RANKINE
How do we feel about him laughing in the face of Will Hayward after being tackled too high in the last quarter?
I know how I feel – I love it!
Not due to the disrespect intended at Hayward, but for the fact a player showed some damn personality in a league that seems to squash anyone who dares step outside the robotic framework they develop and promote to their employees.
Rankine is a bloke who plays with passion, and when he is engaged in the battle, the Suns look at their best. To see him giving it to Hayward indicates to me that this is a player whose competitive edge should be fed at all costs. There will be times he does this and loses and he’ll have to wear it when that occurs, but if this is how he revs himself up, and this is how he draws the opposition players into his web, then by all means, go for it, Izak!
Oh, he also finished with two goals of his own and a direct goal assist for his afternoon’s work. That’s how you back up the bravado.
FALLING STAR – WILL HAYWARD
Was just out of sorts in this one, and though he had moments of brilliance, they were overshadowed by moments where he just looked like his head was elsewhere.
I reckon I have said this a dozen times, but it is worth repeating – there is a lot of Stevie Johnson about Hayward in the way he goes about it, but what we saw in this one was pre-2007 Stevie J – the erratic and sometimes detrimental side of a player that plays his best when he walks a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not.
For instance, what is not acceptable is giving away a 50m penalty at half-back for something as simple as not listening to the umpire, and costing your team a goal. Yet, what is perfectly acceptable was the way he ran down Lachie Weller in the third quarter as the Swans clawed their way back.
I guess you have to take the bad with the good when it comes to Hayward, but today, there was just a little worse than I would have liked.
RISING STAR – SAM COLLINS
Take a bow, Sam – I am giving you the best on ground award for the role you played on Lance Franklin.
Looking like an outlaw with his moustache these days, Collins well and truly owned defensive fifty, winning several one-on-one clashes with the four-figure goalkicker and at times, making Buddy look every bit of his 35 years.
Collins crashed packs, was crashed into, himself, and gave everything he had as he nullified the presence of the greatest forward of the modern age.
On a side note, Sam Collins dropped out of our very own Matt Oman’s Rolling All-Australian team this past week. Do you think he may have taken that a little personally?
FALLING STAR – JACK LUKOSIUS
This might be harsh, but you gotta say what you think. Gotta be authentic. Gotta tell the truth…
What is Jack Lukosius right now? He has been tried everywhere and has not seemed to settle anywhere. After a few weeks on the wing, he was back inside 50 this week, with Gerard ‘The Fossil’ Healy, claiming he did not have the tank to play wing. Maybe he was right.
Yes, Luko was hurt in this game, but prior to his subbing, he had zero influence on the contest and he just looks like a player without a position of his own. He looks like a Nowhere Man, which would be awesome if he could write a song about it. Sadly, I reckon someone else beat him to it.
RISING STAR – NICK BLAKEY
He was one of the very few Swans who looked as though he genuinely gave a shit in this game, running hard from defence and spearheading the third quarter assault on the Suns’ lead, alongide Callum Mills.
Blakey hits some wonderful passes in this game to open the game up, the best of which came with a spear from full back to the running Isaac Heeney in the middle. The kid is all class, and with 25 touches, seven intercepts and 11 rebound 50s, he took another step in the right direction in this game.
RISING STAR – CHARLIE BALLARD
I don’t know what it is about Charlie Ballard, but so often it seems that he kind of fumbles and bumbles his way into the exact right spot to impact a contest and take an intercept mark.
It has to be intentional – you cannot simply get that lucky that you wander into the path of an incoming football and somehow manage to mark it, yet Ballard has this incredible talent of doing just that.
I loved his work in this one, as he wandered around defensive 50 to pick up 11 intercepts for the game, all the while looking slightly like a lost puppy. I think he became Mrs Mongrel’s favourite player today.
RISING STAR – WIL POWELL
Is there a more unsung player in the game than Wil Powell?
He reads the ball beautifully in the air, has a great pair of hands, and makes good decisions with the footy without taking idiotic risks. He had 13 intercepts in this game as he repeatedly cut off the hurried, pressured, or lazy Swans inside 50 deliveries… which accounted for 80% of them.
THE RUCK MATCH UP
Hats off to Jarrod Witts here.
Peter Ladhams started fast and looked as though he was attempting to make a point, but the big fella Witts just goes about his business, and reeled in the fast starter over the next three quarters to have a pretty convincing win int he battle of the big men.
Whilst Ladhams would return numbers of 16 touches and four clearances or the game – nothing to sneeze at – he was well beaten by Witts, whose 19 disposals, 37 hitouts and seven clearances clearly established him as the dominant ruckman on the park.
THE HEAD TO HEAD BATTLE
Firstly, I have to note something I am not sure they pointed out on TV (I turned the volume off for a while).
This was not a straight-up head-to-head battle between Touk Miller and Callum Mills, but I am sure many will think it was. Miller not only had the defensive attention of Mills to deal with, but had James Rowbottom roll over onto him at stoppages around the ground, as well. In essence, he was battling two opponents for most of the contest, with the Swans able to tag out and remain relatively fresh.
The upshot is – it worked, with Miller restricted in terms of numbers and impact, however, the roles played by Mills and Rowbottom also meant that Mills’ numbers were not at the level they usually were, either.
So, if I were allocated the ability to assess the winner and loser of this little battle, I’d actually give the nod slightly to Miller, based purely on the fact it took two blokes to stop him, and the effort of doing so took the Swans’ most consistent midfielder of 2022 out of the game somewhat…
… although Mills’ third quarter could almost sway me back the other way.
HAS THE PENNY DROPPED FOR BEN AINSWORTH?
If it hasn’t, it looks to be about to fall and clank onto the ground, doesn’t it?
At the moment, the league is spoilt for players that can adapt to the half-forward role, so to stand out, you have to be doing something special. Ben Ainsworth was doing just that in this game.
He played a solid four-quarter game to finish with 17 touches and a goal, but I liked his pressure inside 50 and his feisty attitude just as much.
When you look at these Sus, they have plenty of attitude amongst them – Ainsworth, Rankine, Holman… I reckon all good teams have that at times, and Ainsworth was able to channel that into some pretty impressive footy in this one.
THE MCCARTIN BROTHERS
I love watching these two operate.
It looked for a little while that Paddy McCartin may have copped another head knock, but it turned out to be a knee in the backside, which only has a small chance of rattling his brains.
The way he and his brother combine in defensive 50 is excellent to watch, and I have my fingers crossed (which makes typing pretty difficult) that we’ll get to see an extended run with these two complementing each other in defence.
WHAT DOES THIS GAME TELL US ABOUT EACH TEAM?
Look, it tells us that nothing is ever as bad as it seems, and nothing is ever as good as it seems.
The Swans fell back to Earth this week. They had a big tussle with the Lions last week and this loss hits them hard and sends them back to the pack.
For the Suns, it demonstrates they can hang with some of the best in the league, but they have to be “on” right from the outset. They came to play in this one, took the Swans’ best in the third and hit back with some offence of their own.
They’ll need to string three or so win together to really make people take them seriously, though.