A funny thing happened on the way to the finals – a team from Sydney snuck under the guard of casual supporters and swept into the second spot on the ladder with a round to go.
And they halted the 11-game winning streak of the Magpies in the process.
It’s time people started taking the Swans seriously – this is a team that has everything in place to contend this season, but has been largely disregarded by the AFL Media – at times in favour of their vanquished foe in this game.
With Luke Parker acting as the bridge between what was at Sydney and what could be, Sydney now sit in the box seat as we wind down the 2022 season, and with the Saints to come next week, we could very well be looking at a top-two finish.
As for the Pies – they gave it a crack and this team will never die wondering. As we entered the fourth quarter, Collingwood threw everything at the Swans, only for the Sydney team to stand up, repel their attacks and hit the scoreboard, themselves.
It was a professional, at times clinical effort from Sydney who took everything the Pies could muster and were left standing. They deserve to sit in the top two and all things being equal (and this is a big one), they should be right there when the whips are cracking in the last fortnight of September.
Let’s jump into The Mongrel’s Talking Points.
SO, HOW DO THE PIES HELP NICK DAICOS THE NEXT TIME THIS OCCURS?
It seems as though Craig McRae was trying to help Nick Daicos, who was positively caught in the web of Ryan Clarke so tightly in the first quarter that three of his first four touches came from sneaking down to take the kick ins. At that point, Clarke had him in his back pocket and McRae knew it, so he quickly switched his young star to half-forward to attempt to break the tag.
My worry is that this was a known issue coming into the game. Ryan Clarke has established himself as the premier defensive forward in the game over the last six or so weeks – every man and his dog knew he was going to go to Daicos – hell, I even wrote about it four weeks ago!
So, where was his help?
Where were the blocks and shepherds to knock Clarke off his line and buy Daicos some time and space?
There were none, and I reckon it speaks volumes about where the Pies were at heading into this contest. The Pies have experienced defenders like Jeremy Howe, Brayden Maynard, and Darcy Moore slotting into their back six – where were the handballs out the back off their intercept marks to get Daicos involved? Where were the blocks off the footy to allow Daicos a free run out of defence?
It wasn’t just the first quarter – every time Daicos moved back into defence, Clarke was there waiting for him like a bad dream.
Daicos may have finished with 19 touches, but even that is significant – he has finished with 20+ touches in 18 of his 21 games this season, and there can be no question that Ryan Clarke had his number in this one.
Well done to The Clamps – the Pies knew he was coming for Daicos and they couldn’t stop him.
IS CALLUM MILLS STILL THE MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER IN THE GAME?
He just does everything well, doesn’t he?
He has been playing some of the game on the wing, then he moves into the middle, then the next thing you know, he is filling the hole at half-back.
He plays offensively, switches it up to close down on his direct opponent. Moments later he is taking an intercept mark and just when you think he has just about exhausted all possibilities for ways to impact the game, he bobs up at half-forward as a part of a handball chain to set up a scoring chance.
Mills may very well be the complete footballer, but he handles himself in such a way that he doesn’t get the attention he deserves. Whilst some players run around and pick up 35 or 40 touches, Mills does just as much damage with 25-30 because he does a heap of other stuff to complement the possessions.
He laid seven tackles in this one to go with five clearances as he once again became the Swans’ “everywhere man”. That was a title I used to use to describe Isaac Heeney as John Longmire used to throw him all over the park into positions where the Swans were falling down. The issue now is that the Swans rarely fall down, so Mills is being used to make this team more dangerous.
And the sad fact for the opposition – it doesn’t matter where he is played; he just continually produces at a high level.
Every team needs a player like Callum Mills. Luckily for Sydney, they’re the only ones that have one.
HOW GREAT WERE THE SWANS’ BACK SIX?
Each week at The Mongrel, I give votes on the games I watch to feed into our Mongrel of the Year Award. Would it be unethical if I give maximum votes to the Sydney back six?
As a collective, they were close to impenetrable in this one. Many great coaches have espoused the opinion that forwards put bums on seats, but defence wins flags, and if that is the case, based on today’s performance, we may well see the Swans lift the cup in 2022.
Robbie Fox played his best game of 2022, putting the clamps on Jamie Elliott and making his life miserable, and when he wasn’t doing the job, Dane Rampe took over to stifle the matchwinning Collingwood forward.
Tom McCartin and his brother, Paddy… something-or-other, did an incredible job in limiting the inside fifty marking power for the Pies, with Tom sticking to Brody Mihocek like something very sticky, indeed, and Paddy taking great delight in floating in to clunk intercept grabs.
At ground level, Jake Lloyd didn’t get his usual high-20s output, but what he did do was pressure, lay tackles, and clear the area. Ollie Florent is looking more and more like a mature, composed defender, and Nick Blakey settled into the game wonderfully after attempting to take mark of the century in the first quarter.
As the Pies loaded up to give the last quarter everything they had, the Swans’ defence stood tall. It was a collective effort that snuffed out the Magpies’ chances time and time again, with only Nick Daicos able to find a hole in the last few minutes to sneak a goal home – their only one for the quarter.
The third quarter might be called the premiership quarter, but in terms of a defensive unit, that last quarter by the Swans defence was as good as it gets.
WHAT THE HELL WAS WITH THAT DELIBERATE RUSHED BEHIND FREE KICK?
It was a shocker.
McCartin marked the ball deep in defence, took a step to the side and was called to play on. He was obviously within the “nine”, which means that he could rush the ball through without penalty. As Ash Johnson closed the space on McCartin, obviously applying pressure, McCartin retreated across the line to register a behind.
Seemed pretty straightforward – within the nine, and under pressure – we have been told time and time again that these were the required elements of rushing a ball through.
No… apparently not.
Nathan Williamson may be a nice guy. He has lovely hair and looks in ripping shape, but this reeked of an umpire imposing himself on the contest. He ran in like his butt was on fire and called a deliberate behind, which gave Johnson a goal and switched the momentum. A minute later, Mason Cox goaled from Scott Pendlebury on a turnover and suddenly, it was game-on.
The Swans settled and their defence was able to settle things down pretty quickly after that, but it was a prime example of how an umpiring decision can influence a game.
Did Williamson make the right call?
I’m taking this right from the AFL Rule Book… I feel dirty after reading it, to be honest.
18.11.2 Free Kicks – Deliberate Rushed Behinds
A field Umpire shall award a Free Kick against a Player from the Defending Team who
intentionally Kicks, Handballs or forces the football over the Attacking Team’s Goal Line
or Behind Line or onto one of the Attacking Team’s Goal Posts, and the Player:
(a) is greater than nine metres from the Goal Line or Behind Line;
(b) is not under immediate physical pressure;
(c) has had time and space to dispose of the football; or
(d) from a Ruck contest, hits the football over the Goal Line or Behind Line
on the full.
From where I sit, McCartin was definitely under pressure, was within the nine metres, had no legitimate chance to dispose of the footy once called to play on, and wasn’t in the ruck contest.
You could argue that his chance to dispose of it came when he marked the ball, but it says nothing in these rules about a player being called to play on as having prior opportunity. I just reckon Williamson got a little too excited, but I understand if you feel it was warranted.
DOES JAMES ROWBOTTOM STILL HAVE CRITICS?
If he does, why?
Is it his kicking? Yes, he ran at just 50% disposal efficiency in this game, so I can understand if you’d like him to tidy up that aspect of his game, but the way he cracks into the contest and wins his own footy is bloody fantastic, and I would take a player like Rowbottom fearlessly attacking the contest and winning the footy as opposed to someone who hangs around the outside, picks up ten touches and runs at 90% for the game.
Rowbottom had seven clearances in this game, ranking only behind the irrepressible Luke Parker for the Swans, and he managed eight tackles as well, once again applying great heat on the opposition.
If your jury is still out on Rowbottom, it may be time to take a recess, check what he is doing for this team as opposed to pointing fingers at what he isn’t, and concede that he has filled the role left by George Hewett brilliantly this season.
I’m an unabashed fan – first picked every week if we’re going on effort and mongrel.
DOES THE DANE RAMPE RUNDOWN OF BRODY MIHOCEK ENCAPSULATE THE SWANS OF 2022?
In some ways, yes it does.
Dane Rampe has not been his usual impassable self this season and has made some errors that would normally not be part of his repertoire (and no, I am not counting climbing the goal post as something that is part of his repertoire… it happened once).
With the Pies pressing, it appeared as though a certain goal beckoned for Brody Mihocek, but a maniacal Rampe charged at him and threw himself at the body of the Magpie. Whether the contact caused the kick to skew off the side of Mihocek’s boot, or simply caused him to panic a little and not execute the kick properly is up for debate, but the result remains the same – Mihocek sliced the footy across goal and the Swans were able to stave off another Magpie attack.
As covered above, Sydney’s defence was absolutely outstanding in this game. They were bombarded in the last quarter and stood up to everything, and you have to think that when you have a player like Dane Rampe – for so long the heart and soul of the Swans’ defence, pulling off efforts like he did against Mihocek, it has to make every player out there walk a little taller.
HOW MUCH DID THE PIES MISS JORDAN DE GOEY?
The late withdrawal of de Goey really threw things for a loop for Collingwood. Already missing Taylor Adams, de Goey’s presence in the midfield as a clearance player was set to be a vital component of the game and once he was ruled out, the Pies had to adjust by throwing a mix of Brayden Maynard and Steele Sidebottom in at stoppages
It really didn’t work for them around the ground, despite some success at the centre bounces, with De-Pedendlebury the only Magpie really standing up and getting first hands on the footy consistently. Matched up against the quartet of James Rowbottom, Callum Mills, Luke Parker, and Chad Warner, Pendles was fighting an uphill battle and the Swans ended up +7 in clearances for the game, often able to work a handball chain from the stoppage to find space for teammates.
This occurred despite Darcy Cameron and Mason Cox clearly getting the better of Tom Hickey in the ruck contests – the Pies won the hit outs by 21, but without the cattle at ground level, they were tapping it to nowhere.
This was a brilliant win for the Swans, who now give themselves every chance to go deep into September. With the Saints all but out of the race for finals in 2022, Sydney should hit them hard early and advance to the finals in second position.
As for the Pies… their contest against the Blues next week is massive. Can we expect 90,000+ at the MCG like the good old days? I am hoping the Dogs get over the Hawks early in the day, setting up a grandstand finish for eighth place on the ladder.
And there is nothing a rebounding Collingwood would enjoy more than ending Carlton’s season in front of a packed house, is there?
As always, massive thanks to those who support us – this weekend has been pretty difficult, with many of our writers unavailable due to the end of local footy and the associated celebrations. Thanks for sticking with us.