R14 – Sydney v Adelaide – The Mongrel Review


Joel Amartey’s nine-goal haul stole the show and Sydney’s rampage through the 2024 AFL season continued as a powerhouse second half led them past the Adelaide Crows 10.7 (67) to 16.13 (109) at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.

The 24-year-old key forward turned in a career night, with his ten disposals resulting in nine goals and a behind in a best afield performance that left Crows defenders scratching their heads as he was instrumental in his side overcoming another slow start to eventually canter home for the win.

Amazingly, the young forward didn’t have a touch in the first term, but would go on to boot eight of his total nine across the following two quarters (four in each) in a record display.

But don’t let the numbers fool you, the Crows did make the Swans work for this one after getting the jump on their guests early.

Midfield pressure and a surprisingly good job by Max Michalanney on Sydney superstar Chad Warner enabled the Crows to jump out of the blocks.

They held a slight buffer at halftime, which was extended to a four-goal margin when Izak Rankine and Brayden Cook booted back-to-back goals midway through the second term.

Rankine’s influence in his return game was evident, and with the star forward wreaking havoc at stoppages, Crows fans were daring to dream of a memorable upset.

But, as we’re growing to expect from the league-leading Swans, they were able to erase the lead in the blink of an eye thanks to three straight goals from… you guessed it… Amartey.

Personally, I thought the Crows were cooked at halftime, but to my surprise they did have some juice left and managed to present another hurdle early in the third when Darcy Fogarty and Jake Soligo hit the scoreboard.

Then, like something resembling Michael Meyers stalking his victims through Haddonfield, Amartey returned to the frame.

In a minute (literally, about 60 seconds) the game was turned on its head as he booted his sixth to put the Swans in front, followed by his seventh a few seconds later thanks to a holding free kick, followed again by a Taylor Adams goal thanks to a Mitch Hinge-brain fade. Hinge lost his cool and flattened Adams off the ball following Amartey’s seventh, with the resulting free kick giving Sydney a 15-point buffer.

From there, it was one-way traffic as those moments seemed to burst the Crows’ bubble. Sydney went on to turn a 60-44 deficit into a 61-107 advantage… yep, you’re reading that right, a 63 to one-point run. Hard to compete with that.

Midway through the third an upset loomed large, and within minutes the fourth quarter was a formality. Such is the level Sydney are playing at right now.

Their superstars were great again with Errol Gulden, Isaac Heeney, Brodie Grundy and Warner proving too much for the Crows’ mids, but don’t understate the efforts of guys like Adams (22 disposals and two goals) and James Jordon (20 disposals), who played key roles.

At the end of the day, it was just another glittering performance in what is fast becoming a run-away season for the Swans. So without further ado, let’s get into some of the points of notice.


Hold your horses, Max, because Brodie is making a run

Brodie Grundy did his chances of being named the All-Australian ruckman the world of good tonight.

A whopping stat line of 31 disposals, 49 hitouts, 24 contested possessions, and nine clearances told the tale of his dominance in this match, as he took full advantage of his match up against the inexperienced Kieran Strachan.

He is clearly the best recruit of season 2024, and he’s keeping his hat in the ring as the best ruckman of the year, as well.

Up until now, Melbourne skipper Max Gawn has been a heavy favourite to reclaim his mantle as the AA ruckman, but performances like tonight have Grundy coming with a bullet and to be honest, I think it’s neck-and-neck at this point.


Break out or outlier? Amartey makes statement

It was the type of performance you’re not likely to see again, but just how surprised should we be by the nine-goal blast from the Swans’ big forward?

Now I’m not saying we should have been “expecting” Joel Amartey to pump out nine of the finest, but his progress this year has been impressive and perhaps we can expect more bags of goals to come.

Fellow key forward Logan McDonald carries most of the expectation when it comes to replacing long-time superstar Lance Franklin, given his status as a top-five draft pick, but Amartey is taking major leaps in helping to fill the void.

Following tonight’s remarkable performance, he’s now at 31 goals on the season, good enough for fifth in the Coleman medal tally. He takes big marks, his length is a headache for defenders, and he also laid six tackles tonight, meaning you can’t discount his pressure efforts.

He’ll have plenty more eyes paying attention to him after this outing, so let’s see how he goes from here.


Minute of madness turns game upside down

They say a week is a long time in footy… turns out, a minute is as well, because that was all it took to turn this game on its head.

It started with a missed assignment from the Crows defence that allowed Isaac Heeney (the last man you can afford to go free) to run unchecked into the forward 50m and eventually kick his first of two goals on the night. You sometimes hear a commentator say someone “waltzed” into an area. That is kind of how Heeney found space in this instance. On a slow play, with Crows everywhere, he just danced his way into the wide open spaces to mark and goal, as Crows defenders, and even a forward or two looked around at each, wondering what went wrong.

Adelaide still held the lead after this, but another outstanding mark from Amartey, followed by a set shot goal, put the Swans in front.

He would draw a holding free kick after the Swans came storming out of the following centre clearance for his next, and as mentioned prior, Taylor Adams would go on to make Mitch Hinge pay for his ill-discipline.

It was a series of events that resulted in the Swans bagging four goals from a total of ten disposals… talk about a conversion rate!

It was the defining period of the game, and from there the Crows went off the boil.


What a difference Izak Rankine makes

It didn’t result in a win, but Izak Rankine’s return had a major effect on how dangerous the Crows can be forward of centre.

The young star booted two goals from his 18 disposals on the night, a nice return from a hamstring injury that has kept him out in recent weeks.

But more important is the intangible benefit his presence brings in making Adelaide so much more of a threat in their forward-half stoppage game.

His major in the second term was a superb example of this, as Isaac Heeney and Errol Gulden left him unchecked and paid the price, in turn.

Rankine simply being part of these stoppages frees up space for the likes of Jake Soligo and Jordan Dawson to go to work, and it’s what makes him his side’s most valuable player.


Mixed results in the commentary box

Half way through this game I wrote a note to make sure I give credit to Alister Nicholson as my personal favourite among the current crop of AFL play-by-play commentators, so here I am keeping said promise.

Nicholson’s ability to sense big moments, and his almost old-school calling voice, give him an edge over many of his peers. He’s a fresh change of pace from the boys club commentary crews, too.

Unfortunately, not all the commentary was quite so great in this one. Particularly, Luke Darcy choosing to side with Mitch Hinge after he sat Taylor Adams off the ball was, well, a strange choice.

I’m paraphrasing here, but Darcy mentioned something along the lines of Adams being an example of the AFL incentivising players to antogonise one-another in order to draw free kicks… well, I mean, not only has that been happening since the dawn of football time, but last I checked you can’t just flatten a bloke during a break in play because he stirred you up.

Some may have looked at the incident as the straw that broke the camel’s… or the Crows’ back in this game, and will no doubt look at the umpires paying that free kick in a scoring position as THE factor that turned the game, but it was just one of many. The Swans kicked into gear, and the Crows slipped into reverse in the third quarter. You don’t manage one point from that point on because the umpires are against you. You manage one point because you’re worse than the opposition.

And right now, being worse than the Swans is nothing to be ashamed of.