Rumours of the death of the Sydney Swans may have been a little exaggerated. With just one win coming into this game, John Longmire had flagged that they may be about to put the cue in the rack this season and focus on the future.
Longmire spoke about rebuilds as much as a senior coach can without actually saying it, and amongst the fellow Mongrels tonight, we were discussing whether he was using that as a spur for his team? The Swans have a certain pride about them, and I was speculating that Longmire was using those words to needle them, and to prick that pride?
Watching Sydney respond in a typical Sydney way, you have to think that the players, despite what their coach said publicly, think there is plenty left in this 2019 season.
As for Essendon… well, the boom recruit was completely shut down, the second ruck option was a complete disaster, and we had another statistician’s dream, with Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti failing to score again, in their fifth defeat.
The heat is back on the Bombers, and though it is still pretty hot for Sydney as well, for one weekend the refreshing breeze of a win is washing over them, despite the controversy
Here’s The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
THE GOAL POST INCIDENT
Before we get into the actual game, there is the ultra-important issue of goal post climbing that we need to address. Yep, you read that right. Goal post shaking. It’s important now because a team lost.
As David Myers lined up for the kick at goal to give Essendon the win; a kick that was way beyond his capabilities that late in the game, Dane Rampe ran up and jumped onto the padding of the goal post like… well, like a complete idiot. Essendon fans are claiming it should have been a free kick, and to the letter of the law, it should have been – right on the goal line, effectively handing the Bombers a win they did not deserve. Have a look below.
Some mighty strange stuff, huh? I kind of hate that this is now the story. For me, the fact the Swans toughed it out and that Essendon couldn’t get the job done are the two big stories, but such is the culture of the AFL at the moment that there is always something to get upset about.
May as well feed the beast… I have thoughts that conflict on this matter.
On one hand...
1 – What the hell is Dane Rampe thinking? Climbing the post as David Myers is attempting to be Malcolm Blight is one of the dumbest things I’ve seen recently in the AFL. We’re talking Joe Ganino levels of stupidity here. That could’ve cost the Swans a hard-fought victory. After such a great game from him, a moment of idiocy could’ve brought it all undone. Shaking the post has long been a no-no. What on earth would make you think climbing it would be legal? If that were the case there’d be people hanging off them all the time. A massive brain fade is the only excuse here. Surely he cannot have simply not known about the rule?
2 - Had David Myers got his kick anywhere near the goal, I could understand the Bombers’ anger. Hell, I understood it on ANZAC Day, and thought it was completely justified, but Rampe acting like a space cadet while Myers’ kick drops 10 or so metres short seems a bit like Essendon supporters trying to find a technicality to allow them to win a game they were simply not good enough to win. Are they going to claim it distracted him? Please…
But on the other hand...
3 – I suppose you can look at it in black and white terms if you like – you either umpire to the letter of the law, or you don’t, but it is difficult to have any sort of consistency when you pick and choose when to enforce a black and white law.
4 - The umpires said they were comfortable that the actions of Rampe did not affect the outcome of the game. Okay, but neither would a player punching another player behind play after the siren while Myers kicked for goal. Would that require action? I mean, it’s not impacting the kick. Again, I don’t think you can pick and choose when to apply things and when not to. If it’s there, it’s there. I’m a pretty easy-going guy, and without a dog in this fight, I’m okay with no free kick being paid, but the next time one is paid for something similar, what then?
And back to the first hand again...
5 – Really, at the end of the day, I don’t want a game decided by a free kick 30 seconds after the final siren for an inconsequential action when the shot at goal is falling waaaaay short. I would hate that to determine the outcome, and I think most fans would. If Myers kicks the goal, great - the win is deserved. If Rampe jumps off the post, touches the ball on the line and impacts the play, then blow the whistle and award the free kick, but the last thing I want to see is a free kick like that decide a game.
It’s the kind of thing that makes supporters walk away from the game. A ticky-touch free kick for something as silly as that? A free kick like that which costs a team the game, and maybe a season? Had it at all impacted… anything, by all means pay a free kick, but in my book, it had no impact, and if the umpires determined it was not affecting the outcome, I kind of don’t mind their decision not to ping Rampe but I can understand why Bomber fans would be feeling pretty aggrieved. They haven't exactly had a great run with the umps recently.
6 – I love that it was Jake Stringer doing all the pointing at Rampe in the video. Basically the only worthwhile contribution Stringer made in the second half of footy was throwing his arms out wide appealing for a free kick, and that’s what he was doing after the siren too. Put your bloody arms down, Jake. How about you earn your kicks, or at least adopt a different begging pose?
Okay, on with the show, I guess.
We’ll get to how poorly Dylan Shiel played with Hewett on him, but what I’d like to do is focus more on the way Hewett was not only able to cut Shiel completely out of the game, but was also able to find plenty of the ball himself.
Hewett gathered 19 touches for the Swans, and ran at 71% efficiency. While there were plenty better with the ball, Hewett has the additional bonus of negating a potentially damaging player in the process, making every possession he got worth much more. I loved at quarter time that he’d had the ball six times whilst his highly-touted opponent was busy running his hand through his hair and wondering how he’d only had the ball once.
Hard work is how, Dylan. Hard work and accountability.
George Hewett is a hardworking midfielder. Longmire gives him a job to do, and he knows that if Hewett fails, it won’t be for lack of effort. His positioning at stoppages is perfect, as he continually forced Shiel away from his preferred foot, his preferred running angles, and as soon as he realised the ball was not going to get to Shiel, he’d dart off and make himself an option for his teammates. Meanwhile, Shiel would watch him and do little of anything else.
Hewett gave Shiel and absolute bath in this game, and though taggers rarely get the respect they deserve, there is a strong case for Hewett to have his name read out on Brownlow night for the caning he unleashed on Essendon’s prized recruit.
TWO TALL KIDS
With Buddy out of the side, Sydney looked to their saplings to start carrying the weight up forward.
Nick Blakey worked his backside off all over the park, and when he wasn’t taking marks, he was crashing packs. He finished with a career-high 17 disposals as the lead-up forward, and his last minute tackle on Mason Redman should have really sealed the game… yet he got a little too excited, kicked for distance and landed it in the hands of an opponent.
I was hopeful that mistake didn’t cost the Swans, and it almost did, with Adam Saad streaming through the middle before opting to go to David Myers 60 metres out as the siren went. A ball inside 50 may have been the kick to bring the Swans undone…
But it wasn’t, so all is well, right?
The other young fella to stand tall was Tom McCartin.
Earlier this year we ran a competition called The Ultimate Mongrel, which had about 70 questions pertaining to this season. One of the questions was – which McCartin brother would kick more goals this year. I was pretty confident at the time that it was going to be tom, but there were a heap of people in the “Paddy” camp.
I’m wondering if they’d like to have their time over again.
McCartin is fast becoming the player St Kilda wishes the other McCartin could be. He takes marks, is physical, and he converts from limited opportunities. With Blakey leading up the ground, McCartin stayed at home and provided the long option.
It was a glimpse into life without Buddy – a life the Swans hopefully won’t have to get used to for a little while yet, but once it occurs, there’d have to be a sense that they’ve got their forward talls covered with these two. They look ready to give things a shake already.
I felt a bit for Hooker today. He is the Bombers’ Mr Fix It, and when they need someone to clunk a mark, they just look at wherever he is and boot it there.
He had four contested marks to lead all players on the ground, and made a lot of ground to provide a get-out-of-jail option at half back when Essendon were struggling to clear the defensive half. Three of those contested marks came directly from Essendon kick ins.
Hooker had 19 touches and eight marks on the night, and could have been the difference when moved forward in the last quarter. Sadly, we’ll never know as Hurley went down for a while with an ankle injury and Hooker slipped back into defence to cover for him. By the time he ventured forward again, the Essendon mids completely forgot his how to kick to their forwards, and started bombing it aimlessly.
The moment had passed.
THE LONE HAND
Hats off to Cal Sinclair in this one, who battled on against one good ruckman, and whatever Zac Clarke is.
In a genuine two against one, Sinclair played lone ranger for the Swans, and added to a game-high hit out number (34) with a more impressive number along the way.
Sinclair led the game in clearances, collecting nine of the Swans 34 himself in a monumental effort. Sure many of them were hacked forward, but that is the nature of ruck possessions – the pressure comes thick and fast, and you have to get rid of it. It was a gutsy, workmanlike performance from Sinclair, and one that I was hoping for.
Why was I hoping for it? I’m glad I asked myself.
A few weeks back I wrote a review where I question whether Sinclair was playing as hard as he could’ve. I wrote it without the benefit of inside knowledge. What I learned later was that he had been in bed until a few hours before the game, battling the flu. Whilst I can only write what I see, this was something that obviously impacted him on the day, and my questioning of him may have been very unfair.
So, in lieu of that, let’s celebrate how bloody good he was battling two big blokes (or at least one big bloke named Bellchambers, and a tall cardboard cut-out of Zac Clarke). It was a ripping effort by Sinclair tonight, putting the Swans’ ruck division on his back, and carrying it well.
PARKER IN THE LAST
I might go back and have a good look at this, but how many times did Essendon allow Luke Parker to stand on the defensive side of the stoppage to receive the secondary possession in the last quarter? Did John Worsfold not see what was happening, or did he just not rate what Parker was doing?
Just about every time there was a stoppage around the ground in the last quarter, and a Sydney player won the clearance, Parker would be 5-6 metres out the back to receive the first disposal. It was an obvious set play, and while Essendon wasn’t going to stop it, why the hell would the Swans change it up?
Parker finished with 33 touches, nine of which came in the last quarter as the Swans battled ferociously to gain ground and remove themselves from tricky situations. The lack of attention to Parker at these stoppages is an indictment on the Bomber midfield group. There are no runners out there – take responsibility!
With Zach Merrett getting Hewett attention by that stage, did it cross his mind to go stand next to Parker and make them think about changing things? Nope – he went ahead of the ball, to very little effect.
Meanwhile, Parker had a field day, and I reckon there’ll be a few agencies judging him as the best player on the ground.
Though defence is a team effort, there are times when you watch one player, and it becomes painfully obvious that the whole team defence revolves around him. Tonight, that player was Dane Rampe.
Irrespective of who Rampe found himself matched up on, he was the master down back, and not even a holding the ball decision against him, when the umpire… who clearly had a little girl voice, called play on and allowed Jake Stringer a free ping at goal, could rain on his parade.
He had modest stats, but his ability to halve contests and back up when the ball hit the deck was second to none. I particularly liked his work to keep Stringer quiet when he found himself matched up on the dangerous forward.
Stringer is a potential match winner, but he looked anything but tonight, going to sleep for loooooong periods of the game before being thrown into the guts to try to wake him. It was Rampe who lulled him to sleep up forward, and it was Rampe who was close to being the best defender on the park, goal post climbing antics notwithstanding.
THE SECOND RUCK… THE CORPSE OF ZAC CLARKE
Remember when Zac Clarke was this promising young ruck at Fremantle and their embarrassment of riches in the ruck department was the envy of all AFL teams? They had Clarke, Sandilands and Jon Griffin on their books, and with Sandi the undoubted number one, the other two had to look elsewhere for opportunity.
Zac Clarke might be looking elsewhere again pretty soon.
He was horrid in this one. If ever there was a player whose number one talent is being tall, it’s Clarke. He had five disposals for the game… I think I went to the toilet more times during the game than he had possessions!
But hang on – maybe he used it well, huh? Maybe he hurt the opposition with the ball when he did get it? Or maybe he sprayed two very gettable goals in a game that was decided by less than a kick? Yep, that’s what he did.
How long ago was it that he took a mark inside 50, with players streaming toward the square, and he burned them in order to go back and miss? A few weeks? Did he not learn anything about his kicking for goal on that day; namely that it absolutely sucks? He missed then, he missed tonight, and if the Bombers have any brains at all, the next time he misses will be next week, and what he will be missing is the game.
Seriously, it would not surprise me if this is his last game of AFL footy.
THE BIG PENALTY
So Devon Smith had a great 2018, right? Best and Fairest in his first year with the Bombers, and a massive amount of tackles for the season.
And this year?
He’s still tackling, but he is doing bugger all else.
He topped 10 tackles for the first time in 2019, but he ran at just 39% efficiency from his 13 touches. Yep, just four effective disposals for the game from a midfielder. Want to know where the Bombers fell over – look no further than the lack of output from Smith and Shiel.
If Smith is struggling for fitness, he needs the time away to get right. His running power seems to have diminished greatly, and whilst he’ll always throw himself in harm’s way to the benefit of his team, his exuberance to get in the way cost his team a second 50 metre penalty (the first against Jake Stringer, whose game was used-toilet brush ugly as well) and ultimately a goal to Colin O’Riordan. It was an idiotic move by Smith, who just decided to get in the way and bump O’Riordan as he was making his way up the field. It gifted him a shot at goal resulting from a Sydney tackle inside defensive 50.
Sometimes when a player makes a bonehead play like that, they elevate their game to make up for it.
Other days, they’re Dev Smith.
TEN CENTS ON THE DOLLAR
When I write these reviews, I always seem to start with the ugly. I don’t know what it is, but when something is truly ugly, truly grotesque, it tends to stick in your mind. Sure I remember beautiful characters from movies and such, but the characters that are truly ugly… the vile, despicable and disgusting characters… I tend to remember them more vividly.
And at times it is the same with football.
Dylan Shiel had the kind of game that should haunt him for months. When he feels like pulling up on a drill at training, he should remember this game. When he is on the last lap and can either cruise to the end or push harder, he should remember this game. And the next time he finds himself with someone standing next to him, hell-bent on stifling his ball-winning, he should remember this game.
Because others won’t forget it.
Shiel was completely shut down by George Hewett, and whilst we’ve sung the tagger's praises above, what we haven’t done is speak about how poor Shiel was. One touch in the first quarter for this prized recruit – ONE!
He added four touches in the second quarter, but you know what? Hewett was nowhere near as diligent on Shiel as he was in the first. If you get the chance, go back and have a look. For periods it’s Heeney and Zak Jones standing next to Shiel as he stood at stoppages pointing away from himself, almost admitting defeat before the contest even started. He’d go on to have seven clearances for the game, which is a great number, but let’s have a look at what he did with the ball when he got it, shall we?
That’s the efficiency rating for Shiel in this game. He only had Devon Smith (38%), Cal Sinclair, Kieren Jack and Jake Stringer with a worse return. He hacked it forward, responsible for eight turnovers. Eight turnovers out of 17 disposals. Essendon fans, whatever you’re paying this bloke, ask for a few dollars back.
The return you got from Dylan Shiel in this game was not worth what you paid to get him. At a time when the Bombers need leaders, Shiel threw up his hands in defeat way too early. I wanted to see him fight. I wanted to see him scratch, claw and bite to get a bit of space. I saw none of that. I saw a guy happy to defer to Zach Merrett to carry the load because he had a tagger deal with and it just got a bit too hard.
Great players break tags. I’ll just leave it at that.
I love a good news story, and the way Thurlow stepped up in the late stages of this game was great to see. An intercept mark and some hard running enabled him to play a vital part in this win, and would make the move to Sydney seem worthwhile.
What a first half for Zach Merrett. Without the Hewett tag to worry him, he was probably the most influential player on the ground. His run and carry was a genuine highlight, and the Swans really had no answer for him at that point.
Andy McGrath had the best game I’ve seen from him this season, and looked for a while like he was seeing the game a little quicker than everyone else. His decision making was great, and that pass inside 50 to Darcy Parish was a wonderful example of composure under pressure.
Loved the work of Lewis Melican early in the piece, but how good was his spoil on the Aaron Francis marking attempt with his head! Should I make a crap joke about using your head in those situations? Or is the fact that I thought about it bad enough?
I thought Callum Mills really worked into the game after half time, but was possibly one of the Swans’ worst in the first two quarters. His handball to set up Thurlow to be tackled by McDonald-Tipungwuti in the second quarter was the sort you have to apologise for back in the sheds.
You see players sometimes just not looking ‘on’ right from the start of the game. That was Tom Papley tonight. He was fumbly early and looked like he had a niggle after half time. He has so much ability – to see him with eight touches for the game… he’s better than that.
The Bombers live and die by Adam Saad, don’t they? Either his runs pay off big time, or they get his team into trouble. You can see why he is lauded when they come off – they look spectacular, but on a smaller ground like the SCG, and with everyone knowing he is going to take off, the defensive set ups are just too good, and he had to double back several times.
I thought Sydney were lucky to get away with a Heeney throw that led to the Robbie Fox goal in the first quarter. Pretty big missed call by the umpire.
So, once the first half ended, and we learned his name is pronounced Fanta-seeya, where did Orazio go? It was like Fanta said “seeya” and we didn’t see much of him after that.
Not sure there is a more worthless stat than the metres gained stat when applied to Jake Lloyd, particularly when he takes the kick ins. Every time it is just a trot out and a 50 metre kick to a contest. He had 551 metres gained apparently, but I reckon a good 350 of that was due to kicking in.
Looking at the talent in that Essendon side – Hurley and Hooker the key defenders, mids the likes of Shiel, Merrett and Heppell, forwards Stringer, Fantasia and Walla… it’s not the cattle that are the problem here. What is it?
We really saw the impact of no runners on the field in the last moments this evening. Do you think Saad would’ve went 45 degrees to Myers had he known how long was left? As little ago as eight months, the runners would’ve been out there, barking instructions to players and letting them know exactly how much time was left. This year, the players are largely flying blind. Want to know if the new rules are having an impact? Check out the last 20 seconds. That decision by Saad is the result of one of the rule changes. That said, do you think Blakey would’ve tried the kick he tried had the runners been able to get to him? Even an out on the full kick may have been better than the kick he attempted.
So, where do we head next?
The Bombers try to get things back on track with the Dockers coming to town. This is no longer a pencilled-in win. The Swans get North Melbourne in Tassie, and, if I remember correctly, their game was a belter in the corresponding match last year, though at a different venue. Fingers crossed for another one
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