Well, who would have thought the final seconds of this game would come down to good, old-fashioned common sense?

I mean, it hasn’t really been implemented all that often when it comes to umpiring decisions and interpretations to this point of the season. Hell, it was barely implemented in this game at all up until that point.

As Dion Prestia was held, a free kick was awarded, the siren rang, and Chad Warner in a moment of elation, booted the footy into the crowd. The Richmond players immediately began calling for a fifty-metre penalty, and for a few moments, at least, it appeared as though it might be paid. There was absolute confusion. Did Warner’s exuberance warrant 50? Was Dion Prestia going to have to tear his hamstring off the bone attempting an 80-metre torpedo? Who was the ump talking to on his earpiece?

We were then told it was “common sense” for Prestia to take the kick from where the free-kick was awarded.

Common Sense… remember that – it will come up quite often during the course of this review.

In the end, what transpired at the end should not detract at all from a gutsy Sydney win, coming back from what seemed at points to be one kick away from an insurmountable lead to Richmond. The tactical move of Callum Mills into defence gave the Swans some stability and his combination with Jake Lloyd, the after siren hero/villain Warner, and Justin McInerney provided the drive from defence and through the middle Sydney to mount a comeback.

Let’s jump into the Mongrel Review of a game that one of my favourite musicians would have been proud of. Sing it, Prince…

Controversy!!!

 

 

WAS THIS A WATERSHED GAME FOR PETER LADHAMS?

The ruck matchup in this one was always going to be pivotal, with Peter Ladhams forced to go it alone against the Richmond duo of Toby Nankervis and Ivan Soldo.

Ladhams started strongly, and although Nankervis would impose himself physically, Ladhams’ ability to get around the ground and display clean hands in close made him a real weapon for the Swans.

I’ll be honest – I came into this game thinking that this would be an area that Swans would struggle with, as Ladhams has been known to… ummm, shrink a little when the heat is on. That’s probably harsh, but watching him opt out of a few marking contests last week in order to try to get the cheaper out-the-back mark made me wonder whether he’d falter under the physical pressure of Nankervis. Nank is nothing if not a physical presence, right?

Whilst I would not argue that Ladhams outmuscled Nank by any stretch, his work in tight was excellent as he amassed nine clearances for the game to lead all players. He was unlucky not to finish with a goal to his name, as well, in a moment where Tom Papley tried to do something spectacular, when the money play was probably to block Daniel Rioli (who ended up touching the footy on the line) and allow Ladhams’ long shot at goal to bounce through.

If we were grading these rucks on a 1-10 scorecard, I’d have Ladhams at around an 8 for this game, and Nank… well, he gets a point deducted for his brain fade at the end of the third quarter that gave the Swans a sniff. He gets a seven.

That said, Ladhams really put some mustard on the contact he got from Nank, and sold it for the downfield free-kick. The ump didn’t really apply a lot of common sense in that instance…

 

WHERE DOES LIAM BAKER SIT IN THE RICHMOND HIERARCHY AT THE MOMENT?

He has to be climbing the ladder, and unlike some superstars that ascend to the top of the tree in their respective clubs, Baker is crafting his reputation on hard work.

If you want to have one moment that sums up what Liam Baker means to Richmond, his diving smother in the third quarter, hurling himself across the boot of Isaac Heeney, is all you need to see.

He is a team-first player who is completely unafraid to do the tough stuff to support his team. Whilst I am sure he is not the first picked, particularly with some of the names around him, Damien Hardwick knows what he has in Baker – a reliable, no fuss, low maintenance and high impact small defender.

They’re really not that easy to come by.

 

DID WE SEE THE BEST AND WORST OF CHAD WARNER IN THIS ONE?

Firstly, I’ll start by saying that I love what Warner brings to the table. He is a go-er and only seems to know one way to go about things. That’s at full speed.

If you’re looking for a player to take the conservative route, not try to power the team up the guts and get the ball inside 50 quickly, and largely play a defensive style of game, you’d best look for someone other than Warner, as this bloke is all about attack.

The thing about that is, however, that it can do as much damage as it does good at times. In his efforts to move the footy quickly, or use quick hands to get the Swans out of trouble, he managed to sell his teammates into trouble on a couple of occasions when a safer, more conservative route was available. Working the ball back toward the goalmouth and taking the behind might be a better option than to handball to a flat-footed Braeden Campbell with an opponent within an arm’s length, but with Chad, you know he is going to take the path of MOST resistance if it means it could turn into attack.

This year, he has really had his breakout season. After having moments in 2021, it seemed as though his name would be left out of the discussion when the talk turned to the young Sydney stars strutting their stuff. Yes, Errol Gulden, Logan McDonald, and Braeden Campbell got a lot of attention, but Warner’s burst either on the wing or through the guts was noticed only here and there.

He is making people notice this year.

He finished with 27 disposals to lead all players, added six clearances and nine inside 50 deliveries. One thing about Warner is that he is never going to die wondering. If there is a chance, like Lloyd Christmas, he will take it, even if it is only a small chance it’ll pay off.

Luckily, his good far outweighs his bad, and I reckon there is another level of good we’re yet to see from him.

 

WHERE DO WE RATE CALLUM MILLS RIGHT NOW?

Is he top ten in the league?

Higher?

There was a time when Isaac Heeney seemed to be used as a stop-gap measure by John Longmire. Need a clearance – Heeney was your man. Need a quick goal – throw Heeney forward. Need a stop – back he goes.

But that was then – and Callum Mills is now. With the Swans looking to find a way to stop the bleeding in the third quarter, Horse Longmire threw his number one midfielder back into the role he played as he was doing his Sydney apprenticeship.

And Mills took to it like a duck, or a swan, to water.

Mills was one of the catalysts for the Sydney turnaround in the third quarter, providing a cool head in defence and opening up opportunities for his teammates to run from defence. Once that ship was back on course, he moved to the wing and drifted back as the defensive wingman to further aid his back six.

These are the actions of a leader, and more than that, some of the more unsung actions you’ll find from leaders in the league. Yes, we expect great things of club leaders, and whilst we basked in the glow of Buddy slotting five goals and winning the Goodes-O’Loughlin award for the best player on the park, in terms of importance, what Mills gave to this Sydney team cannot be measured in stats alone.

He makes this side walk taller, and given the unassuming way he goes about it, he might just be my favourite Swan at the moment.

 

HALTING THE HUNT

Stats can be used to prove anything.

68% of people are aware of that.

But I want to share with you a stat you won’t find anywhere else and you can see how it correlates with the change in momentum in this game.

In the first half of this game, Richmond laid 30 tackles to the Swans’ 29. Pretty even, huh?

Not really. You see, of those 30 tackles, Richmond were awarded seven hold-the-ball free kicks. Given the league average is around 5% of tackles actually winning a free kick, to be travelling at 23.3% for the half as a team is incredible. It simply does not happen these days. The Tigers were on and they were hunting the Swans at every opportunity.

In contrast, the Swans had just one holding-the-ball free kick paid in the first half. That’s a success rate of just 3.44%. Oh, they were trying – they were just not being rewarded at all.

No wonder the Tigers jumped them, huh?

But after the main break, things slowed considerably. Richmond had 42 tackles – just as ferocious, but only had four successful decisions go their way – a rate of 9.52%. Three of those came in the first minutes of the third quarter. That is still well above the league average, but the Swans were able to stop the bleeding after that five minutes and get the Tigers tackling for stoppages as opposed to winning free kicks for their efforts.

As for the Swans, they seemed to be content in restricting the Tigers’ ferocity at the contest., particularly when it became painfully obvious that even blatant holding-the-ball free kicks were not going to be paid to them. Check out the pic below of Jake Lloyd tackling Shai Bolton. Bolton is attempting to fend but Lloyd fought through it. Bolton then tried to fight his way out of the tackle as opposed to disposing of the footy. The umpire’s call?

A stoppage.

Then, when Lloyd rightfully questioned what the hell the ump was thinking, he was pinged for dissent.

Leading into the next section, I have to ask – was this umpire using common sense? Or was he doubling down on a shitty decision?

We all know the answer to that one, already, right?

I have a bit of advice for that ump – pay holding-the-ball, mate. No one pays to watch you hand out free kicks for dissent.

 

USING COMMON-SENSE?

It’s been something that coaches, players and supporters have wanted – even demanded – for a long time. Chastised for having no feel for the game, all people have wanted was for umpires to display a little common sense when it comes to the rules of the game and the way they are interpreted.

Well, we really got a mixed bag in this game, didn’t we?

Let’s start with one of the softest, most idiotic decisions I’ve witnessed – not just this season – but ever.

Roll the footage.

This is prohibited contact, apparently. This… is what constitutes illegal contact in a contact sport.

Dead ball, a nudge to the arm of an opposition with so little force that it wouldn’t bruise an overripe banana now costs a free kick. After a week where people involved with the game and supporters alike railed against the approach the AFL was taking toward this kind of stuff, did they ease up?

Of course they did not. Why would they listen to the people who pay to walk through the gates, right?

Look, if we want to be pedantic, did Rioli have to give Will Hayward a love tap?

No, he did not.

But he did, and the umpire decided to take control of a situation that he didn’t need to be involved with. Was Hayward looking to remonstrate? Nope, he was using common sense. He was going to go back and set up for a stoppage. Rioli would have done the same.

Was the umpire using common sense in running in like his arse was on fire shouting “prohibited contact… prohibited contact” like a teenager whose balls had not yet dropped? Hell no, he wasn’t. This is the type of action that makes our sport look like a laughing stock.

“Oh, those Aussies… they play this game and the ball is pinging around all over the place with 360-degree pressure, they don’t wear any padding and… oh, look at that guy getting a free kick for soft little shit like that? Maybe they’re not s tough, after all?”

This was EXACTLY what AFL fans have been opposed to over the last week, and almost as though it was a big middle finger from the AFL, they trotted it out again in this one.

Cut the garbage, umps. You’re making this game unwatchable.

 

THIS IS WHAT COURAGE LOOKS LIKE

And then we get the complete opposite of the “incident” above, with two players absolutely committing themselves to a contest, bodies flying all over the place, and the umpires call “play on”.

You know what I am talking about, right?

I am talking about Trent Cotchin deciding to drop into the leading lane of Lance Franklin and accepting that the contact he was going to cop was the price he was willing to pay to break up a potential Franklin mark. Say what you want about Cotchin, but that took guts, especially given Franklin had put one on his chin earlier in the evening.

Cotchin backed into Franklin’s path and was crunched in the collision. No complaints, no remonstrating… he just got up and continued to play the game. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the type of football I would pay to see – blokes putting their bodies on the line for their club, their teammates, and the four points.

And kudos to the umpires for seeing it for what it was – a good, hard, physical contest where nobody was at fault.

Did the umpires use common sense in adjudicating this collision? Yes, absolutely they did. Did Trent Cotchin use common sense in dropping into the hole in front of Buddy? Welllll… sometimes courage flies in the face of common sense, but I absolutely loved it.

Some will choose to focus on the incident where Buddy appeared to make contact with Cotchin’s chin and insinuate that Cotchin is dirty, or weak, that he was staging, or whatever else people like to say about him, but when it was his turn to go, and his turn to stand in the way of a rampaging freight train wearing red and white, there was no hesitation, and that, my friends, is why Richmond fans love him.

 

WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FINISH?

How do you make heads or tails of a situation like this?

For starters, you have Dion Prestia throwing his arm back and whacking Chad Warner in the head in the dying seconds.

Then you have Warner grabbing at Prestia.

The ump blows the whistle and signals a hold on Prestia.

The siren goes as Warner grabs the footy.

The second whistle is blown, which usually means “don’t bloody kick it, Chad!” However, in this case, it could have also been blown to signify the end of the game.

Warner roosts the footy into the crowd and the savvy Tiger players call for a 50-metre penalty, which according to the letter of the law, was there.

The umpire then gets confused, is on the earpiece asking some unknown figure in an undisclosed location about kicking the ball away after the siren, and then decides, despite someone saying “that’s 50 metres” that he is going to use common sense and make Prestia kick from the original spot the free-kick was paid.

 

 

What a mess.

To be honest, Richmond did not deserve the chance to tie this game up. They were five goals up and had Sydney on the ropes. They did not land the knockout blow and the Swans stormed back into the contest. Many will blame this last-minute decision for costing the team points. That’s called scapegoating.

If you want someone to blame, look at Dylan Grimes knocking Lance Franklin over in the last quarter. Maybe look at the play involving Daniel Rioli where an errant handball led to him slipping over and the Swans swooping to kick a goal from the goal line. Maybe look for Will Hayward being permitted to bring the ball to ground on the goal line and converting on a play that should have been killed by the big men.

Those were the plays that cost Richmond – not a decision to award, or as the case may be, not to award a 50 metre penalty.

Oh, and speaking of 50 metre penalties, this is the second week in a row Shai Bolton has given one away for not returning the footy to the opposition player. Seriously, how bloody hard is it? That kind of stuff, when you see it occur more than once, has a degree of silliness mixed with arrogance about it. This week, it cost a goal, with Braeden Campbell slotting it home thanks to Bolton’s ill discipline.

What was that final margin, again?

 

ANY QUICK BITS?

Oh yes… always.

Jayden Short in the middle is working a treat for the Tigers. You’ll notice that he always takes the most defensive position at centre bounces. This allows the Tiger mids to dish backwards if in trouble, knowing that Short can still roost the footy over half-forward. It also allows Short to drift back quickly to provide support for the defence, as he still looks very comfortable inside defensive 50.

Who won the Will Hayward v Daniel Rioli clash?

They didn’t play on each other exclusively, but they were matched up quite often. Hayward was responsible for Rioli when the Tiger snuck forward to goal early in the game, but the way Hayward attacked the contest won me over to his side. Two goals for the game and some good hands early in the game are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of this bloke. At 23, he could still morph into a star.

Two direct goal assists to Errol Gulden in this one. You’d love to lead to him if you were a forward, but his shot at goal in the first quarter was one of the ugliest floaters I’ve seen. The way he was shaking the footy around on his approach may be something he should work on. Looked like he was all over the place.

Whilst I think it is a nice touch to have the didgeridoo guy playing after Swans goals, I’m not sure sticking him in the crowd is a great idea. Imagine being stuck sitting next to him? “Excuse me, sir… can you play quieter?”

Hugo Ralphsmith v Justin McInerney provided some good one-on-one contests on the wing. McInerney seemed quite preoccupied with winning his own footy, so two early goals to Ralphsmith would have been like a slap in the face to him.

Solid start from Josh Gibcus against Buddy, and then… well, there is no shame in being moved off a champion of the game.

Speaking of Buddy, that left boot as he arcs around… not sure there is a smoother kicking action in the game when he is running at the big sticks. There might be better, but not smoother.

Shane Edwards was really dangerous in the first quarter of this one. He really faded through the middle of the ground, but was very creative early, notching a goal and a direct goal assist in the opening period.

Rampe on Dusty? You’d be calling this a win for Rampe, who – if we’re being honest – needed a bit of a big scalp. Some uncharacteristic fumbles from Dusty didn’t help matters much for him. The walls closed in quickly in this game.

How crap was the second quarter advantage call to Jason Castagna when he didn’t have possession, was chasing the footy, and had two Swans hot on his tail?

“Advantage… advantage…”

Yep, he lost the footy. Some advantage…

Pretty quiet outing for Tom Papley, but geez there were a couple of nice little gives to help out a teammate. A tap on to Hayward for an early goal was wonderful, and the handoff to Buddy late shows that this version of Paps is team-first. Remember him in 2020? Chalk and cheese.

 

And that’ll do. Yes, controversial finish, but I genuinely believe the best team won. Richmond blew that and it is not the first time they’ve squandered a decent lead this year. Credit the Swans for a big fightback. Next week against the Dees will be huge.

 

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