Three days after Sydney’s one-point win over Collingwood in the last year’s Preliminary Final, I was lucky enough to chat about the game over a cup of tea with AFL/VFL Legend, Mr Ian Stewart.
I asked him about the Swannies’ chances in the Big Dance and I was told directly, they were ‘no chance’ as he had seen Dangerfield the day before and there was a ‘steel resolve in his eyes’ and there was no way known were they going to get beaten – he could see it.
In my heart, I knew the Triple Brownlow Medalist was correct as since the final siren in the Prelim I had questioned whether a gallant loss was a better result than hanging on by bloodied fingertips for two quarters and surviving by a mere point and being totally spent. Mr Stewart and I discussed what would be an acceptable losing margin not to destroy the club’s immediate future and we concluded that effort was probably more important than margin (as long as it was under eight goals).
Like the good Cat-Whisperer he is, Mr Ian Stewart was proven correct with what he saw in Paddy’s steely stare that day, as Geelong played that entire game as though winning the flag was their destiny, and no upstart bunch of Academy Kids were going to rain on their parade.
Many clubs have been flogged badly in the season’s decider, but you must go all the way back to Essendon in 1984 and Hawthorn in 1986 to find any examples of clubs who went on the following year to have the ultimate success after being publicly decapitated in the previous season’s dance. Sheedy and Jeans did not accept huge defeats in 83 and 85 and were strong enough to make very tough decisions during the following preseason to bring immediate success.
Since the 1980’s I have witnessed many teams beaten by ten goals or more on the last Saturday in September and in nearly all instances, the losing club’s response has been mundanely the same; ‘stay the course’, ‘we’ll back the group in’, ‘our brand will bounce back’, etc, etc, etc. Nearly as much white noise as a Carlton preseason.
Any team that gets beaten by ten goals or more in the Grand Final have been publicly humiliated and each player has been personally appraised and graded in the post-granny scrutiny and that club IS NOT CLOSE to winning a premiership, or even challenging, the following year. Empirical evidence since post-1986 emphatically proves that physical and psychological trauma post a big Grand Final loss is very real.
Find me a modern coach with the ‘balls’ of Kevin Sheedy or the ‘stoic coldness’ of Alan Jeans and maybe the above stat might be different.
Collingwood (prelim loss) v Sydney’s (granny) 2022 Post-Season Response
Collingwood’s response to being a hair’s breadth away from the Grand Final last year was positive and they have actively tried to fill holes they identified. Allowing Grundy to leave and backing in the ruck combination of Cameron and Cox has so far been successful (strangely, even while both were injured), while recruiting McStay, Mitchell and Hill seems to have added much-needed game-day strength and skill. It may or may not bring ultimate success, but it looks and feels like they are on the right path.
Sydney’s response to an 81-point granny drubbing – Aaron Francis!
I do question the Swans management as to their public and private response to last year’s exit. Yes, the Academy Kids and friends need more games, but their preseason response was lacklustre at best. The club needed (still needs) hard strong bodies and this was during a recruiting period when Hawthorn was getting rid (wholesale) of tried and proven finals performers, as well as there being a few other skilled hard bodies who were floating around during the trade period. Dunkley, McStay, Lobb, Gunston, Mitchell, Hill, Jackson, Logue, Taranto, Hopper and others were available late last year for the picking, but Sydney, in their wisdom, declined to go after them. Their big off-season recruit was, I say it again, Aaron Francis!
Did you not watch last year’s Grand Final, Sydney? Dangerfield, Selwood, Smith, Tuohy, Hawkins, Cameron and the entire Geelong team monstered, bullied, and terrorised every Sydney player on the ground.
With the retirement of Josh Kennedy (the grunt and muscle of the club), an injury-riddled Sam Reid now gone for the year, and Buddy Franklin being only an each-way chance of playing out the year, a backline that was/is only one or two injuries away from being exposed and exploited, a forward line that needs direction, a few other holes here and there, especially in the mid-field and a bunch of kids needing strong on-field leadership on every line, the best Sydney could recruit was an injury prone fringe player from another club.
Once again, really?
Sydney paid a high price of admission for making the last day in September in 2022. Like big-time losers from massacres past, including Adelaide, Fremantle, Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, GWS and previous incarnations of the Sydney Swans, given the way the 2023 season has started, they may well continue to pay a high price like those who have been slayed before them.
Learn something, Sydney, from seasons past before potential becomes wasted potential and the promising kids become future trade bait.
Sydney Swans, I am giving you a guide to salvation, and it comes from the team that smashed the living crapper out of you last year, Geelong’s season in 2021 may not have been the best after the 2020 hiding given to them by Richmond, however, it is now abundantly clear they were working full throttle towards to a 2022 success – it kills me to say it as humility is not my strong suit, but chapeau Mr Scott and team.