Match preview: Round 16, Sydney Swans vs Gold Coast Suns

Morning all and welcome to another Swans game day. It's set to be a great Swans football day, taking on a bit of a club day against the Suns with the reserves playing the curtain raiser before the seniors play.

The Swans are set to remain unchanged for the first time this season, with Callum Mills recovering well enough to line up against the Suns.

In round 8, the Swans were unchanged leading into the game against the Roos, but were forced into a late change with Newman coming in, and the rest is history. If the Swans remain unchanged, it'll be the first time since round 21 last season.

The Swans are looking to make it five in a row this afternoon, with their sights firmly set on the top 8. They'll have to overcome a traditionally luck lustre opponent in the Gold Coast Suns to do it, but given their strong record against the Suns, anything less simply won't do.

The last two weeks, the Swans have simply failed to blow their opponents off the park. It almost resulted in a loss to the much less fancied Bombers, before a spectacular comeback ensued to clutch the four points.

Even more worrisome was the Swans uncharacteristically poor set shot kicking for goal last week, recording 9 shots before their first goal, with Rohan the chief culprit kicking three behinds.

Longmire said that the Swans had been taking shots in non-high percentage areas, but anyone who watched the game last Friday could see Rohan, Reid, Kennedy and Franklin all spraying high probability set shots.

"We've been taking shots in non-high percentage areas – the accuracy has been affected by that," Swans coach John Longmire said.

"Whilst we missed some easy ones close in, you never want to miss them but it will happen – it's where we've been taking them is not always the highest percentage."

It's one thing to say that the Swans need to improve in that area, but it's another getting into the prime zones. If your players are missing from 30 metres out on anything less than 30 degrees, then kicking it from the goal square isn't going to make much difference. Ricky Mott can attest to that.

It's a bit bizarre that the Swans kicked almost identical scores two weeks in a row, so I don't think you can attribute it all to taking low probability shots on goal. 2.13 early in the 2nd quarter with more than half of those points taken with shots in prime areas says otherwise.

The good news is that Franklin is back kicking goals, and we're going to need him kicking far more goals than points if we're going to get anything out of this season. His return of 4.3 against the Demons is far better than his 4.12 from the previous three matches. 8.15 in total from the bye is pretty bad, but he can quickly level that with a massive bag against the Suns.

Goal kicking aside, the Suns were dealt a massive blow leading up to the match with former captain and their midfield ruled out of the match early in the week with a hamstring injury.

It's a massive blow for the Suns, who'll no doubt struggle to find their way in the match without a midfield, but that's why you have to develop other players.

I don't think there'd be a betting man that would have given the Suns a chance early in the week, but with the Swans at ridiculous short odds ($1.08), the Suns stand almost no chance of getting a result from the match.

Despite the bad news, and the less than desirable midfield match ups for the Suns, Steven May recommitted to the club for 2 more years this week. They desperately need him and they can't keep losing players every year. They're improving, but if they lost him, Lynch and Ablett, they'd be screwed.

Recent history

The Suns have rarely troubled the Swans since coming into the competition, with the Swans winning every match by an average of 53 points.

The last two times in particular the Suns have failed to break 60 points, scoring just 41 points in atrocious football conditions. The Swans surfed their way to victory, scoring 79, so you can't just blame the conditions, they're just not very good.

They've missed Ablett a few times when they've played us, but when they've had him in, it's been a bit more respectable. But when the average scores for the Swans are 108 and 55, for and against, the Suns don't really have a chance.

They're going to have to find something they don't have to overcome the Swans, but I don't think their current game plan stands much of a chance. They've won 3 from their last 5, despite their patchy form, so time will tell.

Despite all that, the Suns haven't made it past 70 points since 2013, so they're going to have to find a way to score first and foremost. They've had a few big quarters against the Swans, but for the most part, struggled to score.

Last 5

2016
Swans 1.3 6.6 8.13 11.13 (79)
def.
Suns 3.2 4.5 5.5 6.5 (41)

2015
Swans 6.3 9.7 11.11 19.13 (127)
def.
Suns 0.2 6.3 7.7 9.10 (64)

Swans 5.5 9.8 10.11 13.15 (93)
def.
Suns 2.2 2.6 4.8 5.11 (41)

2014
Swans 4.3 8.4 13.4 17.7 (109)
def.
Suns 1.6 3.9 6.13 10.14 (74)

2013
Swans 2.1 6.4 11.10 17.12 (114)
def.
Suns 2.2 3.4 8.6 11.7 (73)

Match ups

The Suns have to find a midfield first and foremost, naming Rosa, Lyons, Miller and Swallow as their quartet, along with Witts taking the ruck.

This is a far cry from having Ablett in the team, and I can't think of many areas around the ground they're going to get out on top of the Swans.

The Suns also have to find a way to stop Franklin with McKenzie the most likely match up, with May taking Reid who'll play deep, or Rohan when he rotates through.

Franklin kicked just 1.3 last time they met, in conditions more commonly found in a washing machine, and overall has kicked just 16 goals. So even if he doesn't fire, there's still plenty of avenues to goal, whereas the Suns don't have that flexibility.

The more interesting match ups will be for who takes the tall players in the Suns forward line. If ever there was a match to bring back Aliir, this was it. But we've got Melican and Grundy instead, I expect Grundy to take Lynch and Melican to go to 2 metre Peter.

There's every chance that we rotate Reid back to fill the gaps if there's a need, but I can't say that I'm totally on board with Melican taking on Wright, with the height, reach, weight and physical difference, it's going to be a tough game for the young man.

Prediction

Swans should be winning this game, and they should be winning it by a big margin. The Dogs shot themselves in the foot last night and gave the Swans some breathing room.

A big win will see them jump well above 110%, and they're going to need it to finish top 6. A win all the same should see them finish in the 8, unless Port Adelaide and St Kilda overcome the odds.

In perfect football conditions, there's no excuse. Swans by 89, Franklin with 5 goals, Kennedy with 40.

If you're based in Sydney, make sure you get to the ground to watch the curtain raiser between the reserve sides, with Alex Johnson playing his 2nd comeback game. Get there and make a lot of noise for the young man, who's been absolutely terrific for the club.

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Justin Mitchell

Justin is a passionate AFL and Sydney Swans supporter, and football blogger since 2016. All articles are of his own opinion. You can reach him by twitter and Facebook at @theswansblog

Melbourne, Australia http://theswansblog.com

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