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The Good, Bad and Ugly - Sydney v West Coast

Rumours of the Swans' demise may have been slightly exaggerated.

Matt Passmore dropped a huge hint in his weekly preview, with the fact that the Eagles had not beaten the Swans at this venue for 20 years. If that wasn’t writing on the wall, i don't know what is.

Here’s Paddy Grindlay’s good, bad and ugly of the Swans’ huge win.

THE GOOD

BUDDY

I think the Bud might be back. The Swans have a great record against the Eagles at the SCG and Buddy wasn’t about to see that change. The tattooed behemoth was irresistable. He could’ve had six or seven, but 5.4 isn’t too bad of a return.

Will Schofield was led on a merry dance all day as Buddy ran amok, the Swans seeking him out with every carving kick. He curves goals through that don’t make sense, from distances that shouldn’t have goals kicked from. You’d swear, watching Buddy, that he’d have kicked at least eight goals, such was the thrummm around the ground whenever he galloped toward the pigskin. He’s enticing, the whole package. Garnering a free kick in the dying moments, Buddy slid through his fifth from 50 on the tightest of angles, the crowd baying in anticipation, anxious expectancy and finally tumultuous jubilation. 17 kicks, nine marks.

The man is a superstar.

TOM PAPLEY

I love Papley, the Swans’ small forward. No, forward-mid. No, goalkicking midfielder who has phased into a reborn Sydney midfield and flourished. Papley’s third quarter didn’t necessarily win the Swans the game, but Christ it went close. A relentless running machine with a brutal buzz cut, Papley’s work-rate is unrivalled and he tore apart West Coast, high-tailing it from centre circle to forward pocket, feasting on his teammates’ sumptuous delivery and converting reasonably well.

Any afternoon with 27 touches, seven marks and five goals is a bountiful one.

LIAM RYAN’S FIRST HALF

West Coast’s dynamic small forward is known for his leap predominantly, but his electric ground-level ability provides West Coast with one of the most versatile and dangerous forward lines in the competition. Darling and Kennedy can boot a handful every week, Rioli and Petrucelle are whip-fast and capable of jaw-dropping antics but I’d pay money to watch Liam Ryan every week.

If he’s not taking hangers, he’s evading tacklers, weaving through traffic and snapping them from all angles. His first quarter was pure entertainment – running hard lines off half-forward, Ryan’s boot either buried the football into a teammate’s chest or resulted in a shocking turnover. His first goal followed his own work in the pocket, shrugging tacklers on the boundary line where a stoppage was all but certain, the ball eventually scrubbing forward, his gather by the goal-post and goal-line snap.

The second, a tackle on Jake Lloyd right in front of goal, called holding the ball from which Ryan had no problem converting. Ryan’s fade from the game – ending with two goals and 16 disposals – coincided with a dominant second half from the Swans, but the performance shown in the first half was encouraging and promises more of the same from the energetic 22-year-old.

DANE RAMPE AND ALIIR ALIIR

The defensive duo have one hell of a job this year. Heath Grundy’s retirement and Nick Smith’s torn hamstring have flung the two into key defensive posts, which could’ve ended pretty nastily against the twin towers of Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling. Kennedy’s first half was busy, with three goals from few chances, but Darling was poor and Rampe and Aliir made hay, gathering 32 and 22 disposals respectively while combining to haul in 20 marks.

Aliir twice was on the goal-line to save goals – his third quarter finger-tipper went to score review, the embattled system finally coming up with the right choice in a pretty average fortnight of decision-making. 4.2 was Darling and Kennedy’s combined total, eclipsed easily by Franklin and Reid – 8.4. A job well done, as a breakout year from Aliir in particular rolls on.

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EVOLVING TAGGERS

George Hewett and Ryan Clarke strolled out to West Coast’s best midfielders, knowing full well that letting Luke Shuey and Andy Gaff to dash the SCG at their leisure would see Sydney struggle against the reigning Premiers.

Hewett’s body of work recently as Sydney’s set-and-forget midfielder who’ll happily go toe-to-toe with the best of them is impressive, and he dealt with Shuey beautifully on Sunday. Their contest is best summarised by a third quarter contest – Shuey back-with-the-flight under a high ball, with both eyes on it, in the perfect position to either mark or be awarded with a free. Hewett contests, legally with eyes for the football, spoiling to advantage. Sydney fly down the ground and Callum Sinclair marks in front of goal, kicking truly.

Hewett’s day? 29 and a goal, while Shuey, working hard through the midfield, accumulated 24 hard-earned touches as part of a heavily defeated midfield.

The unassuming Clarke, too, held Gaff well for the first half, before the All-Australian broke through the tag to lead the Eagles with 28 touches on the outside. Clarke didn’t quite break even with 22 and seven tackles, but ensured that the Eagle dash that could have torn up the SCG had no ground in which to operate.

PATIENT SWANS

Sydney are exceedingly good at the SCG, if you let them use their space. In the first quarter, Sydney strangled the Eagles for much of the contest, dominating possession 121-73, despite the Eagles holding the footy in their half for the majority of the quarter. Feel like that doesn’t make sense? Sydney switch, switch and switch again until an option breaks loose, Lloyd (rampant with 42 disposals), McVeigh (before a thigh injury ended his night at half-time) and Mills (quietly ending the game with 11 marks and 25 disposals) hurriedly cleaning up the backline.

The Swans went forward sparingly in the first stanza, yet made use of their forays, kicking 3.1 from seven inside 50s in the early going, picking their options warily. When they go, they go, and Sydney know best how to utilise the SCG’s minimal space, dashing through the middle of the ground and scoring in a flow. 18.8 from 46 inside 50s, 12 less entries than the Eagles, is outstandingly efficient, boding well for a mid-season charge to the finals.

IT’S A SHOOTOUT-ISH

Buddy Franklin is every footy fan’s guilty pleasure player. He can’t mark overhead and gets the occasional easy run from the umpires, but when Buddy slopes to the left and bulldozes his boot through the pigskin from 55, searing it through the major uprights at pace, there’s always a joyful involuntary response – when he’s not playing your team.

Buddy kicked three in the first half and buzzed ominously every time the ball came his way. His stablemate, Sam Reid, is quietly piecing together a wonderful season as well, finally injury-free and using his athleticism and height to full advantage. He had three as well in the first half, including a contested mark floating across Buddy from which he played on, banana-ing his third of the second quarter. Josh Kennedy was West Coast’s champion with three of his own, having more of an impact in the forward line than Jack Darling and trustworthy from a set shot.

THE BAD

IN ALL, A MASSIVE LETDOWN

This was immensely disappointing from West Coast. Having not won at the SCG for 20 years, playing a side low on the ladder and short key players off the back of a solid win against the Dogs, the Eagles were right in it at quarter time before meandering their way to the finish, watching as a fleet of invigorated Swans darted toward the goalmouth.

They were inaccurate when looking to score and missed targets all night, paying full price on the rebound. It’s not a year to be off your game, with the Eagles just a game clear of an improving Adelaide, the youthful Lions and the injury-ravaged Richmond. A game clear in second place was the reward - instead the Eagles have fallen back to the pack of chasing sides. Yes, being short Elliot Yeo and Shannon Hurn was evident; the Eagles’ midfield was well beaten and bled defensively from the game’s beginning.

However, it was a game that, to West Coast, could have been a key part of their run to go back-to-back, a win away from home at a bogey ground, short of a few players. Not only did West Coast lose, they were smashed.

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THE UGLY

WILLIE RIOLI…

…will miss weeks for a sling tackle on Colin O’Riordan that left the Irishman glassy-eyed and disorientated. Rioli brought the Swan down, both hands around him in a textbook (to that point) tackle, swinging his opponent to the turf with his head bouncing sickeningly on the ground. O’Riordan unsurprisingly did not return, meaning that West Coast’s small forward will certainly be at the mercy of Michael Christian’s judgement.

AND WHILE I AM ON THE POINT…

…Nathan Vardy is rapidly building a less than optimal reputation, considering his very late bump on Jackson Thurlow comes a few weeks after the Geelong expat gave Max Gawn a little thanks-for-coming after Liam Ryan stood on the Melbourne ruckman’s head and took an incredible snare. Thurlow left the ground after lying prostate after the bump, Vardy’s act costing his side a downfield free and subsequent goal. The Swan, also an ex-Cat, came back on, but the hit was to the head and gee, did it look poor.

LEWIS JETTA..

…what were you thinking? Third quarter and the Swans are charging toward what would be a 7seven-goal lead. Jetta has the football deep in defence, tracking the football to the pocket. He decides to snap the ball high in the direction of Josh Rotham, the football taking an eternity to droop toward the young Eagle. Sure enough, Sydney sweep in, the ball finds its way to George Hewett and Sydney burst away from the Eagles. Lew Jetta is quick, skilful and crafty in defence but that kick was neither of the three aforementioned attributes.

COLE, PAPLEY, COLE

Watching Tom Cole paddle the footy out of play deliberately looked head-smackingly dumb. Then Tom Papley tried to get around the admonished West Coast defender. Tackled. Gone. Holding the ball. Cole responded perfectly by punting the football out-on-the-full, summing up West Coast’s game.

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