Morning all and what a fine day it is. It's beautiful and sunny in Melbourne today, not exactly warm, but certainly much improved on the rain we had yesterday.
It was another great football weekend for us Swans fans, recently spoiled like we've been before in 2014 and 2016, an embarrassment of riches with our vein of form.
It's not often that a team can pluck a player from their reserve team and have them kick five goals and take eight contested marks in a game. Most teams would be delighted with their power forwards pulling down half of that, but Sinclair has set the bar very high for those in the reserves.
All he has to do to maintain form, is take a sneaky peek over his shoulder. Sam Reid will undoubtedly be back in the side this week, as long as he's fit, and Kurt Tippett kicked a bag in the NEAFL in the Swans massive win.
I blogged about his last week and I urged the Swans to pick him for this game, and there's been many discussions on Facebook, Twitter and BigFooty about his non-selection, but it's hard to argue that we don't look a lot better with him in the side.
He's been maligned during his time at the Swans, with fitness a significant issue in 2016, excluding him from a large block of games and missing the finals, while out-of-contract ruckman Toby Nankervis impressed. While the start of the 2017 season was nothing to crow about, especially given the Swans' dismal start, his impressive first quarter against the Eagles in the round 4 loss was tantalising, and a sign of what he could become.
Improved performances followed, mixed in with some forgettable ones, but his form steadily improved when paired with Sam Naismith and he proved himself a decent option to play 2nd ruck. It certainly wasn't the sort of role he played on Saturday night, spending most of the time he was on the ground in the ruck.
The fitness and strength improvement in Sam Naismith has been almost as impressive at Callum's break out performance, allowing Sinclair to play almost permanent forward for the first three quarters, as Naismith went at close to 90% game time in the ruck. The last quarter was a different matter, but having that option to chop out when needed, and carry the load on occasion has certainly diversified the team and added a new dimension in attack.
While Reid is certainly a quick and athletic swing player, the one area he's really struggled to improve over his career is in contested marking, an area Callum exposed Nathan Brown.
Having flexibility when it comes to finals, and in crucial matches, is often the difference between two teams. The Swans have certainly improved on that area throughout the season, continuing to play the youngsters, while Aliir, Marsh, Laidler, Edwards, Brandon Jack, Tippett and Talia spend significant time in the reserves.
I consider Sinclair to be a better ruckman than Tippett, despite the obvious physical differences, which is more crazy, considering the game he played on Saturday was far and away better than any game Tippett has played for the Swans.
Tippett tips the scales at 105kg, but occasionally fluctuates up with muscle mass, and is typically considered one of the big power forwards of the game, alongside Patton and Hawkins. He's quick on the lead and can mark the ball, but the body work he's been putting in this year, and being beaten by guys up to 20kg and 15cm less was baffling.
That's why I see Callum Sinclair as the better choice, not only to play second fiddle in the ruck, but as a permanent forward. He's quicker, more athletic, certainly more agile, and almost jumping over a pack on Saturday night proves that he can beat his opponent on the ground and in the air. It's something that Tippett hasn't been able to do for most of his career.
That's not to knock Kurt, because at peak form he's unstoppable and I completely agree with Tom Harley, his best is definitely in the Swans best 22. But with the form peaks few and far between, with his best in spurts between 2013 and 2016, it's hard to see where he factors in the team, especially given his torrid time against the Hawks in round 10.
It wasn't all Sinclair in the Swans win over the Saints, the first pride match for points in Sydney. He certainly played a big hand, a vital role, but could certainly have had more goals, and should have, if he'd been more accurate.
It's a bit of a trend for the team at the moment, kicking bizarre score lines since the bye, 17 more points than goals and only twice scoring more goals than points in a match. Franklin and Sinclair had 8.7 between them, which should have been 10 or more goals, with both players missing easy shots.
The Swans are still winning games despite the considerable drop off in accuracy in front of goals, with 5 more games to go in the season. Win all 5 and they once again equal their club record 12 wins in a row (3rd time in 4 seasons). It would be ridiculously good if that happened, but even better if the Swans went one game further and still made it to the pointy end of the season.
In any case, with the Tigers and Demons doing the Swans a big favour on the weekend, the unlikelihood of finishing top 4 three months ago has almost come to fruition. The Swans have the hardest run home of all teams, and while most predicted the Swans to be at the top come this time of the season, none saw the Swans win 10 from 11 given their precarious position, except yours truly and a few other dedicated, and shall we say extremely over optimistic fans.
Here's some highlights in case you missed the match. I especially enjoyed his 60m bomb after burning Carlisle on the lead.
The next fortnight is telling, not just for the Swans, but for all of the teams in the top 8. There's still a lot of shuffling with teams playing against one another, and jockeying for position for the last two rounds is critically important.
Richmond still have to play the Hawks (MCG) and Cats (SS), while the Cats still have us, while the Crows have us (AO) and Port Adelaide (AO). While the Crows can't finish outside of the top 4, and the odds of Geelong doing that are very long indeed, GWS, Richmond and Port Adelaide certainly can drop out of the top 4, as Port did so on the weekend.
Nathan Buckley may well have saved his job since his team started to actually care about how they performed, while Rocket Eade's senior coaching career appears to at an end. Another truly disappointing effort from the under-fire team against the Dogs, insipid another way to describe it, has certainly put a line through negotiations at the end of the season.
North Melbourne can certainly do the Swans a favour this weekend, should Sydney beat the Hawks and maintain their top 4 run, knocking away the Demons, while Fremantle and St Kilda could win the unwinnable. Richmond play their bogey team the Suns at Metricon, while the Crows play a reinvigorated Pies and the Blues host the Cats. It's a massive weekend of football, and all the Swans can do is beat whoever is in front of them.
Stay tuned later today as the SwansCast crew return to record the 8th episode of the #SwansCast podcast. We're joined by special guest, former All Australian, 2012 premiership hero Ted Richards, who's made himself a very successful post-football career in the finance industry.
It's going to be a great episode, so send us your questions and comments right here, or on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time.
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