The Swans’ SCG problem could cost them top four, and fortune favours brave, brilliant Bombers

A lot of the speak after Gold Coast’s upset win over Sydney on the SCG went straight to the Suns’ very good latest file towards the Swans. And it’s true – Stuart Dew’s crew have now gained 4 of their final six video games towards their most up-to-date victims, together with all three within the harbour metropolis.

However there’s one thing much more worrying at play for the Swans: the SCG itself is quick changing into a bogey venue. That’s not superb when it’s your own home floor – and in contrast to the Suns, they’ll need to face it many extra occasions for the remainder of the yr.

For a lot of 2022, and every so often in 2021 as nicely, the Swans have struggled to get their trademark free-flowing, sharp-kicking, lightning fast recreation plan going on the SCG, famously the smallest common floor within the AFL. In 4 video games up to now this yr, they’re 2-2, having additionally misplaced to Brisbane at house final week; whereas a kind of victories was a thriller towards the significantly struggling North Melbourne.

Add that to their kind final yr, the place they have been thrashed by Hawthorn there and scraped previous a surprisingly inaccurate St Kilda of their closing two video games, and an issue begins to grow to be clear.

So, what’s inflicting this dire run? In opposition to the Suns, the problem was kicking. The Swans dedicated 68 clangers for the sport in comparison with the Suns’ 48, usually coughing the ball up trying to slice down the hall, as is their wont.

To the Suns’ credit score, they shut this kick down all day, and benefitted immensely from it. But within the closing minutes of the sport, with the Swans making all of the operating, they usually regarded to kick into the center and discover an choice to arrange an attacking chain, and it got here unstuck each single time.

The consequence was simply 41 inside 50s for the day, nicely under their season common of 55. They gained 68 and 65 respectively of their most up-to-date wins over West Coast and Hawthorn, performed in Perth and Tasmania respectively.

To be honest, they solely misplaced the clanger rely narrowly final week to Brisbane, whereas simply 47 inside 50s on the SCG in Spherical 2 didn’t cease them slicing Geelong to ribbons with the identical strategy. However that’s once we get to the Swans’ second weak spot: on the coalface.

With Josh Kennedy moved out of the centre rotations and Luke Parker spending chunks of time ahead, John Longmire is clearly after pace across the ball versus grunt work. Chad Warner, James Rowbottom and Callum Mills are the brand new leaders of the Swans’ midfield, with all (Mills is perhaps an exception on his day) extra suited to profitable the ball on the surface fairly than the within.

No Swan a lot as reached 10 contested possessions on Saturday afternoon, in comparison with 4 Suns: Matt Rowell (15), co-captains Jarrod Witts and Touk Miller (11 apiece) and defender Wil Powell (10). That helped give the guests a slight however essential edge in that stat (139-124) and the clearance rely (36-29).

Final week, a victorious Brisbane expressed post-match their need to curtail the Swans’ unfold, clamping down on their capability to maneuver the ball freely. They have been capable of pull that off, as did the Suns – and intuitively, the bottom’s dimension appears more likely to have an effect.

It’s no accident that the Swans gained two premierships within the final 20 years off the again of brutal, relentless depth on the coalface. The place they performed most of their footy, the SCG, was a perfect floor for it.

But when they’ll’t discover a method to open the bottom up extra with a brand new model, the Suns’ win on Saturday gained’t be the final time the Bloods are upset on their house turf.

Matt Rowell of the Suns is tackled by Luke Parker of the Swans.

Matt Rowell of the Suns is tackled by Luke Parker of the Swans. (Photograph by Matt King/AFL Pictures/by way of Getty Photographs )

Talking of opening the bottom up, Essendon’s victory over Hawthorn on Saturday night was down to 2 issues: choosing up each single a part of their model in defeat to the Bulldogs final week, and throwing it within the sea.

This couldn’t have been a extra completely different Bombers outfit to the handball-happy, ridiculously inefficient outfit of the previous few weeks. With a newfound dedication to kick the ball lengthy, get the ball besides fairly than backwards by hand, and all the time ahead, ever ahead, the Dons shocked the Hawks within the closing time period with eight targets to at least one.

With at least 5 late withdrawals, together with a finest and fairest winner in Jordan Ridley and a collection of different key role-players, this was a well-known victory for the pink and black, and one that means, even when this season does find yourself being a write-off, the longer term continues to be shiny.

And it was phenomenal to look at. Sure, there have been turnovers, sure, there have been dropped marks, sure, there have been moments that made the Bomber devoted tear their hair out. However fortune, as they are saying, favours the courageous.

It’s not usually {that a} stat so simple as variety of kicks may be so illustrative of a change of favor, but that was the case tonight. The Bombers’ kick-handball fee of their final three weeks (defeats to Fremantle, Collingwood and the Bulldogs) learn 191-171, 195-192 and 208-185. Tonight, it was 223-129 – fewer disposals than in any of these three video games, however infinitely extra affect.

Working example: this effort from Mason Redman, which solely didn’t put the Bombers in entrance due to a free kick on the objective line. However are you able to think about a Bomber in the previous couple of weeks having the dare and the braveness to play on 70 from objective, name in for a shepherd, and launch for house?

Central to all of it was the dashing determine of Nick Hind throughout half-back. Everybody is aware of his one-wood: he’s simply in regards to the quickest man within the league. However with treasured little room or encouragement to run and gun up to now this yr, his kind tapered to the purpose the place he was dropped. Tonight, he was nearly essentially the most influential man afield, with 18 kicks and a game-high 552 metres gained.

In the course of a career-best yr, no one benefitted extra from the frenetic tempo of the sport than Peter Wright. Allowed to steer into house or given one-on-ones to make use of his power, the large Bomber was just too good for the Hawks’ normally watertight backline.

It was much like how St Kilda had separated the Hawks’ backline just a few weeks in the past, with comparable devastating outcomes.

For the Hawks, it’s yet one more match the place they’ve been incapable of stopping an opponent coming house with a moist sail, having leaked 9 targets to Sydney only a fortnight in the past.

It regarded for all of the world just like the Bombers had been freed up throughout the week – these much-maligned smiles at coaching but extra proof of that. It’s a method that also wants some work – however one which Essendon seems far, much more suited to than what it has produced so far this yr.

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