The Swans have sent a menacing statement to the AFL world, moving into the top four (for now) after thumping cross-town rivals the Giants in the 24th Sydney derby.
John Longmire’s men produced one of their best four-quarter performances of the season, increasing their lead at every change to run out 73-point winners, 17.10 (112) to 5.9 (39).
Luke Parker won his third consecutive Brett Kirk medal for best player in a derby, finishing with a game-high 34 disposals, while Sam Reid, Lance Franklin and Isaac Heeney all kicked three goals each.
Watch every blockbuster AFL match this weekend Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
QUARTER-BY-QUARTER MATCH REPORT
The Giants were rocked by a late change, with co-captain Stephen Coniglio a late withdrawal and replaced by Xavier O’Halloran. Their medical sub was Lachie Keeffe.
There were no late changes to the Swans’ team, with Josh Kennedy named the sub.
The Giants pulled a surprise at the start of the game, swinging Harry Himmelberg from the backline inside forward. He took a strong mark and converted a tough snap set-shot to register the opening goal of the game.
That’s making a statement in your first contest… This is where they need him. It’s been Toby Greene or bust inside that forward 50 over the last few weeks,” dual premiership Kangaroo David King told Fox Footy
Five-time premiership Hawk Dermott Brereton added: “He could be one of the great swingmen as we move forward.”
King noted the Swans “look a little sluggish” in the opening few minutes of the game.
But the Swans clicked into gear after 10 minutes.
Isaac Heeney took a terrific pack mark and delivered an accurate set-shot kick, before Tom Papley earned a free kick after applying great pressure and snapped a super goal.
“I think this is the new Swans, the forward 50 pressure over the last couple of weeks,” King said.
“I like the other side of the game to Sydney, it’s got an edge about it that’s bringing it scoreboard return.”
The Giants then got one against the grain, with a chaotic passage of play leading to a Toby Greene set-shot goal before Callum Mills nailed a superb running major in a strong Swans response.
Swan Sam Reid was then the beneficiary of a down-field free kick after Giants ruck Braydon Preuss made contact with James Rowbottom off the ball.
It was the first of two goals for Reid for the first quarter.
“Off the ball there, he (Rowbottom) just gets picked off – that’s not what we want,” King said of Preuss’ contact.
“This is a guy that’s 27 years of age who’s played 27 games – and that’s probably a large reason why.”
Preuss then bounced back with a long-range goal, but Will Hayward and Reid responded as the Swans took a 19-point lead at the first change to continue their hot opening-term form.
Scoring was hard to come by in the second term, with the Swans peppering the early goals.
But Heeney found his rhythm and kicked his second goal eight minutes into the term before Sam Reid booted his third.
The Swans continued their relentless defensive pressure, ensuring there were no easy passages of play for the Giants.
“This is why they can win the flag. The work without the football is brilliant,” King said.
After seven behinds between the two teams in the second term, Errol Gulden showed terrific class and polish, nailing a long-range goal to give Sydney a 37-point lead at half-time.
“Now they’re starting to toy with them, the Swans,” dual All-Australian Leigh Montagna told Fox Footy.
Brereton added: “It’s been a masterful display by the Sydney Swans.”
Sydney’s dominance continues after half-time, with Papley pouncing on a forward 50 stoppage to bring the SCG alight.
Preuss then gave away another free kick, leading to a goal to Rowbottom as the margin ballooned out to 49 points.
“You do have to have a word about this as a coach,” King said of Preuss.
“I’ve got no problem with him being a character and I like his ruckwork and I like his full-chested attack at the football. But just a little bit of care is required. There’s no character in that, it’s just a flaw in his game.”
Giants defender Sam Taylor had a mighty game manned up on Lance Franklin, restricting the superstar Swan’s output significantly. So it took a rare Franklin right-foot snap goal to bring him into the game.
Franklin then added another — this time on his left boot — as the Swans extended their lead to over 10 goals.
But Greene broke the goal drought for the Giants, nailing a long-range kick from outside 50.
“He’s a freak talent,” King said of Greene.
Jesse Hogan then added another goal after the three quarter-time siren to reduce the Swans’ lead to 50 points.
But any momentum the Giants had generated in the third term didn’t carry into the fourth as the Swans dominated possession and territory.
Heeney and Franklin both added another goal to take their respective tallies for the day to three.
And then Nick Blakey kicked a terrific running goal with a minute to go to seal a big win for the Swans as Gulden kicked his second after the siren.
3. TRAIT THAT SHOWS SWANS CAN ‘WIN THE FLAG’
The evidence is banking up and is now too hard to ignore: The Sydney Swans are a genuine flag threat in 2022.
And Saturday’s percentage-booster now has them right in the mix to finish in the top four at the end of the home and away season.
The Swans have now won four games on the trot and seven of their past nine matches to leapfrog Fremantle and move into the fifth spot on the AFL ladder.
Dual premiership Kangaroo David King said the Swans had “wildcards everywhere”, headlined by in-form duo Isaac Heeney and Tom Papley inside 50, as well as Nick Blakey off half-back.
“He’s the sort of player that wins you a big final, Isaac Heeney, just can’t wait to see him in September,” King said.
The Swans also thumped the Giants off turnover, with Blakey and other half-backs generating ample drive, momentum and, ultimately, scores out of the defensive half.
But a new brand of the Swans in recent weeks has emerged: Their relentless defensive pressure.
When the Giants got their hands on the ball, there were few easy possessions as the Swans were so well set up behind the ball, while they put ample pressure on the ball carrier.
The Swans thumped the Giants in contested possessions, leading to a significant inside 50 differential in their favor too.
King pointed to the Swans’ willingness to be first to the ball at stoppages then, once they win the ball, they’re first to react and spread on the outside.
King: “I think this is the new Swans, the forward 50 pressure over the last couple of weeks. I like the other side of the game to Sydney, it’s got an edge about it that’s bringing it scoreboard return.
“This is why they can win the flag. The work without the football is brilliant.”
“There’s an edge about the Swans today.
“They are charging towards the top four. If not the top two.”
Five-time premiership Hawk Dermott Brereton added: “Their knowledge of their game, their style and how they want to play it at any given moment is just on point.
“They’re in really good knick. This game style is fantastic.”
Premiership Swan Tadhg Kennelly added on ABC Sport: “The Swans are as dangerous as any team in the comp at the moment. The confidence in their ball movement … this is the stage of the year where that confidence grows.”
Brisbane and Collingwood sit above the Swans on the ladder with an extra win, but Sydney has a more superior percentage, meaning John Longmire’s men could pounce on any slip-up by either team.
Coincidentally, the Swans and Magpies will face off in Round 22, with the winner surely favored to finish inside the top four.
2. GWS’ GIANT CONUNDRUM
We saw the best and worst of Braydon Preuss during a rollercoaster afternoon at the SCG.
While Preuss was dominant in the ruck at stoppages, Brereton labeled the Giants big man as the “Toby Nankervis of the northern states” due to the array of free kicks he gives away in a game.
Preuss cost his team a goal in the opening term when he opted to lay a big bump off the ball on Swan James Rowbottom, leading to a down-field free kick and set-shot for Sam Reid.
The contact will surely be scrutinised by the AFL Match Review Officer, who’s already hit Preuss with Preuss with three separate bans in 2022.
“This game was in arm-wrestle mode (at the time of the bump). You just can’t give away opportunities like this,” King said.
“(Giants caretaker) ‘Spike’ McVeigh is fighting for this job.
“Off the ball there, he just gets picked off – that’s not what we want,” King said.
“This is a guy that’s 27 years of age who’s played 27 games – and that’s probably a large reason why.”
Minutes later, Preuss unleashed a long-range goal against the grain to give his side a lift.
His ruckwork was also impressive up against the Swans’ ruck duo of Tom Hickey and Sam Reid, using his frame effectively at stoppages.
“The thing with Preuss though is he’s so big, if you can get it right it’s an asset that is there,” Brereton said. “Very few men come along as big as Braydon Preuss who can mark it, kick it and jump for the footy
“There’s a few rough edges, but people of that size with those attributes don’t come along very often.”
But Preuss also gave away another two free kicks that also led to scores for the Swans.
“What do you do with Preuss? He’s playing a pretty good role and having an impact in this game, but that’s twice now he’s given away down-field opportunities that are likely to end up in a goal to the opposition.
“You do have to have a word about this as a coach… I’ve got no problem with him being a character and I like his ruckwork and I like his full-chested attack at the football. But just a little bit of care is required. There’s no character in that, it’s just a flaw in his game.”
Brereton added: “Is it so inherent in his nature that he can’t resist putting some punishment on somebody when the opening’s there? Or is it brainfades? Because it does happen too much to be consistent brainfades.”
1. PARKER CREATES HISTORY IN TIGHT KIRK MEDAL COUNT
Luke Parker told Fox Footy post-game he’s just “trucking along”. He sold himself very short.
The 254-game veteran starred again on Saturday to claim his third consecutive Brett Kirk medal – and fifth in his career – after again being voted best on ground in a Sydney derby. Franklin and Kieren Jack are the next best with three medals each.
Parker finished with game-high disposals (34), contested possessions (16), clearances (6) and score interventions to set the tone for his side’s 73-point win.
But there were several contenders for the medal – and Errol Gulden and James Rowbottom can probably consider themselves unlucky.
Gulden played arguably his best game for the Swans, booting two goals from 33 disposals and 12 marks and six score engagements, while Rowbottom laid a whopping 13 tackles to go with 23 touches and a goal. Nick Blakey also starred with 21 disposals, 11 intercepts and a late goal.
And while Franklin might’ve finished with three goals, Giants defender Sam Taylor was enormous, finishing with 21 disposals, 10 marks, 13 intercepts and seven rebound 50s to strengthen his All-Australian case.
Follow Sydney v GWS in our live blog below!
If you can’t see the blog, tap here.