AFL Preview: Geelong v Sydney

The Swans were gallant in defeat last week against the premiership favourites in Hawthorn, although they will have to put a four-quarter effort in this week if they are any chance to knock of the cats at Simmonds Stadium. After getting out to an early lead, the Swans allowed Hawthorn to come back into the game too easily, and their big name players like Franklin and Lewis started getting on top of their opponents late in the second quarter. The second half was goal-for-goal, and after a controversial last quarter, the Swans were unable to claim the four points, and have finally been knocked off top spot.

The Swans success in 2012 was unexpected, although looking at the statistics it’s easy to tell why. The Swans have the lowest score against in the league, and unlike the premiership side of ’05, they are also kicking big scores, averaging over 105 points per game. The Swans ruthless attack on the footy has been a key part of John Longmire’s game plan as they lead the league in tackles per game and contested possessions. This focus on contested footy is led by Josh Kennedy, who leads the league in contested possessions and is a real chance for the Brownlow Medal. He isn’t alone though, with Keiren Jack, Ryan O’Keefe, Jarrad McVeigh, Lewis Jetta and Jude Bolton (before getting injured) all having stellar seasons in the midfield.

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Coming into round 23 the Swans must be confident they have a chance to knock off the reigning premiers, after being the first team to win at Simmonds Stadium in four years in round 23 last year, ending the Cats 29-game winning streak at home. The Swans currently sit second, equal points with Hawthorn on top, and are still a chance to take home the minor premiership. The Swans have now lost two out of their last 3, with close finishes against quality opposition in Collingwood and Hawthorn. Another loss this week could put doubts in the minds of the players, and having some momentum coming into the finals can do wonders for a team’s confidence. A win this week would secure a home qualifying final, and could set the Swans up nicely for a successful finals campaign.

If the Swans are a chance, they are going to have to do a good job of keeping Tom Hawkins quiet, and I’d imagine Ted Richards would get the job after having an outstanding season down back, which should see him in the All-Australian Team. Hawkins has been in good form recently, and proved to be the difference in several games this season, particularly against Hawthorn in round 19 with his 55m kick after the siren. Another key to this game is exploiting their limited ruck stocks. The ruck/forward combination of Pyke and Mumford has been working well in recent weeks as they cause problems for defenders with height and contested marking ability, and have been impacting the scoreboard. Another key match-up for the Swans will be managing Steve Johnson. Nick Smith will probably get the job although ‘Stevey J’ is a talented player, and will be hard to stop. Limiting his impact on the game will give the Swans a good chance to win, and secure a home qualifying final.

Blake Gray.

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