R13 – Sydney v Geelong – The Mongrel Review

All eyes were on the SCG this round to see if the third placed Geelong could be the ones to knock off the high-flying Swans. Geelong made Sydney work for it, but in the end, the Swans were just too good as they ran away with another convincing win to remain the undisputed premiership favourites.

The Cats got the jump on the Swans, kicking the first five goals of the game thanks to quick movement through the midfield. The Swans looked a little nervous, with some poor kicks forward and a few players caught holding the ball. When Stengle dribbled through the Cats’ fourth within the first ten minutes of play, it was looking like Sydney were going to have to dig deep to get into this one. The Swans struggled to get their hands on the ball and found themselves constantly defending as the Cats sent the ball in to their forwards time and time again to register a 29-point lead at quarter-time.

But the tide started turning in the last few minutes, with Sydney increasing the pressure on Geelong. However, as we headed into the second quarter, they still struggled to get many clean passages of play. They repeatedly kicked the ball long down the line straight to Geelong defenders and kept their own defenders under the pump as the ball came straight back in.

It took until the 14-minute mark of the second before Sydney kicked their first goal through Amartey, but it set the Swans alight. They followed it up with four more before the end of the term to cut the margin back to just five points going into the main break.

Geelong broke the Swans’ goal streak with another snap to Stengle in the first minute of the third, but it did little to halt the Swans’ momentum. Now, it was Geelong who were making poor choices with the footy, leading to the ball spending plenty of time in the Swans’ forward half as point by agonising point the Swans pulled back the margin.

Geelong were determined not to let their lead go, and found a way to get running again to create goal scoring chances of their own. But they, too, couldn’t find the goals as the game turned into a stalemate. Finally, at the 26-minute mark, the goal came to get the Swans in front for the first time, followed by another moments later to give Sydney full control over the game going into the last term.

As expected, the Swans kept on their merry way early in the fourth and kicked four of the first five goals of the term to seemingly put the game well out of Geelong’s reach. To the Cats’ credit, however, they decided to give the game one last crack and threw all caution to the wind. They completely opened the game up and were able to get back within 12 points. But the Swans remained composed and rode out the Cats’ charge before slotting the final three goals of the match to complete the 65 point turn around.


Geelong’s blistering start

Looking at the final score, it may be hard to believe that Geelong kicked the first six goals of game. They were all over the Swans in the first term, and it was due more to what they were doing off the ball than with it.

Geelong were willing to give up having the attacking position at stoppages to place their players on the defensive side. This put the brakes on the Swans’ gun midfielders and prevenented them from getting their usual running breaks. They pushed more players to the ball and were able to force the Swans to kick long, high balls that were easy for the strong defenders Stewart and De Koning to pick off.

The Cats were also able to generate plenty of run for themselves with the way they were able to set up around the ground. They stretched the Sydney defence and weren’t afraid to make the switch when it was on which led to their midfielders running through with ease and providing their forwards plenty of supply.


What changed?

For much of the first quarter and a half, the Sydney midfield was quiet. Gulden was collecting some touches but wasn’t having much of an impact. Warner too was trying to get into the play, but some poor kicking was letting him down. Heeney seemed to be just off with his timing and Grundy was collecting hit outs, but they weren’t going to the Swans’ advantage.

But then in the second, all four of them were able to click together. Grundy started tapping the ball right where it needed to go, and Gulden started making his mark. A great long goal by Warner set the players alight and Heeney, not to be outdone, kicked the next two goals of the game and had over 300 meters gained in the second quarter. The Geelong defence had only dropped off its pressure a little bit, but it was more than enough for this classy Swans outfit to take full advantage.

From then on Sydney were able to play the game mostly on their terms, with the rest of the team following in the footsteps of their star midfield. Thanks to no longer bombing the ball forward, the influence of Stewart was all but erased, and they were simply too quick for the ageing Geelong side.

The awesome foursome were the top four players for the match, with all notching 100 or more fantasy points and kicking five goals between them. Gulden was best with a huge 37 disposals, 12 of which came in the final term, five clearances, five tackles and a massive 737 metres gained. Heeney and Warner both collected 26 disposals while Grundy had 25 and 35 hitouts.


Battle of the forward lines: Stengle v Amartey

For the first three quarters, it felt like it was going to be Stengle and Amartey would decide the winner. Neither side were able to make the most of their inside 50 chances, but it seemed like when they really needed someone to step up and get a goal it was one of these two who would get the job done.

Stengle kicked back-to-back goals in the first quarter to get the Cats well and truly to a great early start, including a great dribbling goal that’s sure to be a goal of the year nomination. He also kicked the first goal of the third quarter to get a little breathing room when the Swans were charging hard.

At the other end, Amartey stood up to kick the Swans’ first goal of the game and kicked two of their three for the third term when the team was making its charge.

To three-quarter time the two forwards had three goals each, but that would prove to be all they had.

In the fourth term, Amartey’s influence was curbed but he was still instrumental in getting the Swans over the line, with his two disposals coming from contest and turning into forward 50 entries, including a great kick to the running Warner that led to a goal.

Stengle, on the other hand, was unable to touch the ball at all, and his only stat came from a tackle in defence. Surprisingly, he was on the bench towards the end of the quarter when the game was still on the line and by the time he returned to play the Swans had already put an end to any thoughts of a comeback.


The Power of Papley

Even with the midfield starting to fire in the second quarter, it still seemed like one more Swans player needed to step up to get the team over the line, and that man was Tom Papley.

He had a very quiet first half with only eight disposals and one mark, but as quiet as his first half was, the second half was loud.

When he kicked the goal that finally got the Swans in front for the first time, his teammates could not catch him to celebrate, and he followed it up only a couple of minutes later with his second to set the Swans on the road to victory.

With him finally a presence in the game, it felt like Sydney couldn’t lose, and his third gave the Swans their highest lead of the day up until that point. It was only outdone by his next goal which was the last of the game and nudged the margin to the final 30 points.

His four goals for the game were the most of any player, and he finished with 15 disposals, six marks, and two clearances.


Big guns misfiring

Everyone knows Geelong has two big weapons up forward, but for much of this game neither were anywhere to be seen. Both Cameron and Hawkins had quiet games, with Cameron, in particular, spending more time up on the wings rather than staying in the forward 50.

Cameron had 11 disposals to halftime but only one of them was effective, while Hawkins had been ineffective himself and missed two of his three shots on goal.

Both were locked into the forward line in the fourth when the Cats’ decided to go all-in to try to steal the win, but it appeared to be too little, too late. Cameron was able to kick two last quarter goals, but both came in the first half of the quarter, while Hawkins had no impact at all with only one disposal to his name in the term.

It’s clear that Scott is trying something different with the veterans this year, however, one can’t help but wonder what possessed him to hold his two biggest forwards back in a game when the forward line was lacking any real targets. If either of these guys had been on a roll in that last term, it could have been a very different result.


Geelong will have the bye next week, while Sydney will be heading across the border to take on the Crows at Adelaide Oval. The last game between these two teams is still burned firmly in the minds of Crows’ supporters and there’s no doubt they’ll be wanting revenge. Still, Adelaide have been struggling in recent weeks, and it seems highly unlikely they’ll be able to turn it around quick enough to give Sydney too much trouble.