In a game that will be remembered for a late-game mistake as much as any skill or courage, the Sydney Swans met a rejuvenated Western Bulldogs, and walked away winners by seven points in a tight contest.
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad, and ugly.
When the game was hot early, Parker was front and centre. He attacked the ball and the man with intent, and by half time, had three goals to his name.
While there were seven players who had more of the ball than Parker, he was good again early in the fourth, and his touches were important, extracting the ball from the centre and covering for a rare down-night from Josh Kennedy.
I’m a little old school, and I love a game where emotions boil over a bit, particularly early, as it sets the tone for the game.
Sometimes it’s an incident that starts it all – a bump, a late tackle, but when the push and shove starts before the first bounce, you know you’re in for a treat. The Bulldogs did not want to take a backward step against the strong Sydney outfit who target tgeir Norm Smith Medallist, Jason Johanissen, and were determined to take it up to them from the outset.
It may not have got them over the line, but it was great to see the passion and the pride back in their performance.
Ollie Florent didn’t have his best game for the Swans, but when the pressure was on late, he was in the right place at the right time.
With big Tim English the only thing with the potential to stop him, Florent got the ball over the back and put the foot down. Credit English for staying with him and applying the pressure, but Florent was up to the task, and though the Dogs had their chances, he snuffed out their last chance with a running goal
Swans in Red-Time
Coaches hate this, and for good reason. If you have a look at the game as a whole, the Swans had scoring chances at the conclusion of every quarter.
In the first, it was Parker marking and goaling. In the second, Franklin hit Heeney inside forward 50 for another goal. As the siren sounded to end the third, Franklin had a shot for goal, but missed, and then you had Florent goal in the reddest of red time in the fourth.
The Bulldogs will have to ensure they maintain their pressure against good sides late in quarters… says Captain Hindsight.
My bet is that Sydney are pretty content with McVeigh hanging around for another run this season. While a lot of other Swans have received the plaudits over the years, McVeigh just keeps on keeping on.
Against the Dogs he did a wonderful job on the last line of defence, providing timely spoils in several contests and composure when required. He knows pressure – he’s thrived in pressure situations, and he is a valuable component of the Swans back half.
My favourite McVeigh moment saw him with possession 60 metres out. Instead of bombing long, he took his time, scanned the forward 50 and then found Dean Towers, displayng patience and composure. Towers converted for the Swans, but it was McVeigh’s influence and ability to settle things down that manufactured the opportunity.
Tim English in the ruck
He’s got a beautiful pair of hands, and when allowed to run at the ball, always takes the ball with one grab.
His tap to Bontempelli at the centre bounce in the third quarter was marvelous, and set up a great clearance. He did drift out of the game, but the potential is definitely there.
Loved his game down back. Loved his run, loved his decision-making, loved his hardness at the ball, and loved his interceptions. He has really transformed into one of the premier defenders in the competition over the past few years.
His combination with Grundy is one of the better one-two defensive punches in the game.
That may be the quietest game I’ve ever seen Kennedy play. He wasn’t involved at stoppages, had only 15 touches and little effect on the game. Prior to this game, Kennedy was averaging over 27 disposals per game this season, and had averaged over 27 touches for the past seven years.
He may be carrying a bit of an injury, or it may have been just an ordinary outing, but overall, it was far removed from his best game, and one, on a personal note, he may want to forget relatively quickly.
Late game decision-making.
Time ticking down, game on the line, and you need a goal to have a shot at the four points. Whose hands do you put the ball in? Not Caleb Daniel, I’m guessing?
Before we talk about that, I must acknowledge that Daniel had a ripping last quarter, and was one of the players with run left in his legs. However, he can’t kick over a jam tin… and I don’t know how high a jam tin really is, as I use jam jars, but odds are it’s not that high. He ran to 40 metres out, looked a little confused, and tried to hit Bont with two or three defenders to beat.
Firstly, Daniel should’ve banged for goal rather than going to a 50-50, or in this case a 25-75. Secondly, you’d prefer the ball in the hands of someone with a decent boot on them.
That dropped mark
It’s probably not right to point fingers at Josh Dunkley for this one, as there were dozens of errors throughout the game, but this was at a crucial moment, with the Dogs pressing. He had the open goal beckoning, and the delivery to him was perfect. All that was left to do was take the ball and slam it through for a goal.
But Dunkley took his eyes off the ball for a split second, thinking about what he was going to do with it, rather than what he needed to do to get it. The ball bobbled out of his hands, and into dispute. Jarrad McVeigh laid a body on Dunkley to ensure he wasn’t going to get a second crack at it, and the Swans cleared the area.
When you’re first learning how to catch, or mark in the case of footy, you’re taught one thing – keep your eye on the ball. Josh Dunkley broke rule number one, and the Dogs paid the price.
Lin Jong was extremely stiff to have a trip paid against him to Luke Parker in the first quarter. It was not a trip, and though the tackle slipped to the thighs, it was still a legal tackle. In such a close game, all decisions like that count, and the umpire guessed at that one.
Tom Papley looked incredibly dangerous in the first quarter. So hard to tackle, and so elusive. He was going beautifully until he had his head smacked into the turf. Funny that…
Billy Gowers went out of the game quite dramatically, but he was quite prolific in the first quarter. His kick across the ground to set up Johanissen’s pass to Lin Jong for a goal was excellent.
Jack Redpath is a classic ‘mark and kick’ player. At one stage he had five kicks, and five marks.
There was a scare thrown through not only the Swans, but the football world when Buddy Franklin clutched at his left shoulder in the second quarter. Luckily, it looked like a stinger and nothing else, but it put into perspective that the game is better with Buddy in it than on the sidelines.
We’ve really seen a changing of the guard in the Sydney midfield. Parker is now the man in there, with support from Isaac Heeney and of course, Josh Kennedy. Guys like Kieran Jack and Daniel Hannebery appear to have been relegated to lesser roles.
Good to see someone pinged for ducking their head into a tackle and being caught holding the ball. The head ducker – Hannebery. The tackler – Jack MaCrae.
Amazing how quickly Lance Franklin can impose himself on a game.
Bont pulled a Steven Bradbury when both Swans defenders fell over, allowing him to waltz in and bag a goal in the third.
The third quarter was played in two halves – the teams basically swapped roles halfway through. The Swans were dominant early, and established a lead, and then they seemed to stop as the Dogs answered and completely dominated the last ten minutes of the quarter.
Mitch Honeychurch made a couple of errors to start the fourth. Dropped an uncontested mark at Half Forward, and minutes later got a chance on the run from 50, and had it drop into Heath Grundy’s arms, ten metres out. Can’t blame Josh Dunkley for that. Terrible kick.
I thought Heath Grundy was excellent defensively in the last quarter. Held the Swans defence together.
Aliir Aliir had an easy shot to make it very difficult for the Dogs. 30 out, on the run… fluffed it. I thought he was very ordinary, but will be better for the run.
Liked the Dogs’ midfield with a couple of legitimate ball-winners in the mix, in MaCrae and Wallis.
Lachie Hunter. 17 disposals, but very little influence on the game.
Overall, if endeavour was the issue for the Bullies in the first two rounds, consider that problem rectified. Now, they just need to work on converting opportunities.