Match preview: Round 20, Sydney Swans vs Geelong Cats

Good morning all, game day is finally here, and it's a chance for the Swans to seek immediate redemption for their last gasp loss to the Hawks last Friday night. It wasn't pretty watching last weekend, with many players down from their usual lofty standards, and changes before the match throwing the team into a bit of disarray.

It didn't help either that the Swans had to contend with injuries during the game, with Naismith getting crunched in a marking contest, Sinclair rolling his ankle, Mills rolling his ankle and Kennedy struggling throughout the match with a tight hammy. Throw in a bit of Franklin reverse midas touch and you've got all the ingredients for a bit of a throwback to round 6 earlier this year.

Looking ahead, it's the perfect opportunity to realign the stars, right the wrongs, seek justice for last weeks performance and set the impetus for the remainder of the season, the roadmap to finals, the standards required to achieve the outcome.

Geelong have been far from convincing at home this year, having played just four games at Kardinia Park, a victim of their success really, forced to play at bigger grounds for bigger crowds, and more money for the AFL. They've won by 2, 2, 22 and 23, an average of 12 points, and should really have lost to Fremantle in round 14.

With their burgeoning list of outs, including some of their best and most important players, this is the best opportunity the Swans will get to beat the Cats, and take on the mantle of best away team in Geelong over the last 10 years. It's certainly not going to do much to dent their impressive 8-2 record, but 8-3 certainly reads a lot better than 9-2.

Dangerfield, Blicavs, Menzel and Motlop head an impressive list of good players that Geelong will miss, while the Swans will have to do without influential captain Josh Kennedy. It doesn't quite work out in balance, but it certainly gives the Swans the edge, with Kurt Tippett returning for Sam Naismith.

It's an important game for the maligned big man, who's been in and out of the team this year through injury and form, most recently dropped after his poor efforts against the Hawks in the round 10 loss. But with form and game time in the NEAFL, amongst the best each week, it's the perfect opportunity to reassert himself on the game and reclaim his spot in the side.

He'll be rucking alongside Sinclair, with both players set to share the forward and ruck loads, equally one would hope, since both have proven capable of taking big marks and kicking important goals.

It's a big game for both teams, and neither will give an inch in what's set to be a Friday night classic. The Cats sit 2nd on the ladder, a game behind Adelaide, and while a win puts them equal 1st, they would need to win by 400 points to overtake the Crows, who play Port on Sunday.

However, should they lose the game, they could easily slip to fourth and be vulnerable in the following weeks to the teams behind them. It's unlikely that they'll finish outside of the 4 this season, but with three difficult games against Richmond, Collingwood and the Giants, anything is possible.

For the Swans, every match is do-or-die. If they lose tonight, they could slide out of the 8, or at best be hanging on to the coat tails, along for the ride.

This is the epitome of a must-win game, and while they're all must-win, this is one they can't let slip. A win pushes them back into top 6 contention, with games against Fremantle, Adelaide and Carlton to follow, and an outside chance of top 4, depending on how the Cats, Tigers and Power fare in coming rounds.

Super Sunday of football will shape the finals run-in, with Richmond, Adelaide, Port Adelaide, St Kilda and West Coast playing, and Hawthorn vying for another upset. GWS and Melbourne also face off on Saturday afternoon, so whatever the result is tonight, they'll be nipping away.

There's lots to play for tonight, top 4, top 6 and top 8 ambitions are all on the line. There's nothing else for the Swans to do but leave it all hanging on the line, play their hearts out and what will be will be. While this season has been as close as its ever been, the Swans are still as good as they've ever been, despite the first 6 rounds.

Recent history

Recent history has been kind of the Swans, especially agains the Cats. Where once historically the Swans struggled against the Cats, especially a 9-game losing streak between 2006 and 2013, they’ve righted the wrongs of history past in recent years, winning four of the last five since 2014.

The Swans have a knack of breaking team win streaks at their home venue, once boasting impressive away records to Subiaco against both teams, and more recently, hold a similar record at Kardinia Park.

While it's nothing to crow about, the Swans have certainly found more success in the last 6 years at the venue, than any other team bar Geelong and Fremantle, twice breaking impressive win streaks by the home team.

In fact, the Swans win in 2011 broke a ridiculous home winning streak for the Cats that started in 2007, including 29 wins. That win was their first at the venue since 1999, so let's hope that we don't have to wait that long again.

Last five meetings

2PF, 2016, Sydney 15.7 (97) d Geelong 8.12 (60) at the MCG
R16, 2016, Sydney 15.8 (98) d Geelong 9.6 (60) at Simonds Stadium
R19, 2015, Geelong 14.11 (95) d Sydney 9.9 (63) at Simonds Stadium
R7, 2015, Sydney 18.12 (120) d Geelong 11.11 (77) at ANZ Stadium
R11, 2014, Sydney 22.16 (148) d Geelong 5.8 (38) at the SCG

The Swans have certainly had the measure of the Cats since 2014, twice putting them to the sword in Sydney, while twice scorching them in Victoria last year, including a swashbuckling first quarter effort that effectively ended the preliminary final.

Since 2011, the Swans have the edge on the cats with 6 wins from 10 games, but between 2006 and 2011 the Cats 9 games in a row.

It's a big game for... Kurt Tippett

Kurt Tippett is a big inclusion for the Swans, replacing injured ruckman Sam Naismith. His form has been wavering at best, inconsistent and patchy since the bye round last season but when he's at his best he's near unstoppable.

Good form in the NEAFL and luck with injuries brings him back into the side, and it's up to him to repay the faith the team have in selecting him. The team trust him, he's done what he's been asked to in the reserves, so now it's time to translate that into game day form.

Without placing too much expectation on him, there's hope that he'll dovetail well with Sinclair and both players can prove an effective foil for Franklin, and force the Cats to man them up. Last week the Swans struggled to score in the 2nd half once Naismith and Sinclair were forced from the ground, so having Reid, Tippett/Sinclair and Franklin in the same forward line will give the Cats headaches.

Prediction

It hasn't been a great season on the blog for predictions, but we'll stick with what we think is best, Swans all the day.

Sydney Swans by 13 points, Franklin 2 goals, Sinclair 2 goals, Tippett 3 goals.

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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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