Match preview: Round 20, Sydney Swans vs Carlton Blues

Good morning all, game day is finally here and its time for the Swans to not only seek revenge, but nail shut the coffin that represents Carlton's season.

There's a lot going on this weekend, with the Bulldogs already out of the finals race. The Swans are competing with Richmond and Port Adelaide for the coveted top 4 spot, a double chance in a topsy-turvy season that can throw up anything at any time.

Sydney is playing the first of all teams, so nothing short of the mother of all hidings will do, to put adequate pressure on the Tigers. Port face a Gary Ablett-less Gold Coast Suns, so they're expected to record cricket scores at the Adelaide Oval, while Richmond just has to win on Sunday.

Either way, it's an exciting weekend with everything to gain from every match, especially the battle for the spoon between the Roos and Lions. I can't think of a more deserving winner than North Melbourne, they've earned this one.

The Swans made two changes for the match with Hannebery (hip) and Papley (knee) ruled out on Thursday, neither training through the week. With the bye round next week and the Swans playing the 16th ranked team in the final round of the season, it makes perfect sense to rest anyone with any sort of injury concern.

The flip-side is that that NEAFL don't play this weekend, so there's no way to give game time to players like Laidler, Foote and Robinson, who've been emergencies most of the weeks since the fateful Hawthorn match, as well as Talia, Aliir, Dawson and Florent.

With the Swans NEAFL team finishing in the top 2 this season, they play their first final during the Swans' bye round, which means extra game time for Cunningham, Tippett, Hayward and a very other players that might need it, that will be pushing for senior selection. Either way, I don't envy the task ahead for the selection panel, as the Swans enter the final round virtually injury free, a rare phenomenon.

The return game against Carlton pits two teams that have significant diverged since that game. While Carlton won a stirring match against Hawthorn and narrowly lost to Essendon recently, they've been belted off the park in some of their losses, while the Swans have been doing all the belting, narrowly losing to Hawthorn twice by 6 points.

In the immediate aftermath of the Carlton debacle, the players came together and made sure that it would never happen again. The Lions came out and tried to do the same thing, going after Mills, but all it did was start rolling mauls as players flew in from all parts of the ground.

The one good thing to come out of the Carlton loss was for the team to grow a spine, to show their hunger, desire and will to win. For too many years the Swans have been easily pushed aside in matches, ruffle them up and they turn to water - was the saying. Hawthorn proved this time and time again, setting the blueprint for bringing down the Swans.

Their stodgy game plan still worked this season, but since that fateful round 6 game, the Swans haven't been bullied by another team, and they've done it with minimal fines and suspensions, with only Jones copping a whack for a forgettable moment.

Whatever happens this match, it's important the Swans come out of it injury free. Top 6 is assured even if they lose, so it won't be the end of the world. Jarrad McVeigh nears 300, Towers nears 50 and Tippett is rolling into some form.

Recent history

Before round 6 this season, the Swans had won their last 7 encounters by an average margin of 38 points, including their narrow 6 point win last year. The Swans have won 7 of the last 10 and hold a dominating record since the turn of the century, winning 21 of 26.

With both sides at opposite ends of the ladder, the Swans primed to play their eighth finals series in a row and Carlton narrowly avoiding the spoon, this is bound to be another one-sided battle.

Last five meetings

R6, 2017, Carlton 15.7 (97) d Sydney 11.12 (78) at the MCG
R18, 2016 Sydney 10.14 (74) d Carlton 10.8 (68) at the SCG
R2, 2016 Sydney 20.11 (131) d Carlton 10.11 (71) at Docklands
R9, 2015 Sydney 19.8 (122) d Carlton 9.8 (62) at the SCG
R17, 2014 Sydney 18.14 (122) d Carlton 7.9 (51) at the SCG

Apart from the last two matches, the Swans have held almost complete domination over the Blues, with their previous win recorded in 2011.

Casboult, Silvagni and Kruezer tore the Swans apart in round 6, with Levi will be missing this match and the Swans won't need to worry about his contested marking power. Instead, they'll need to turn their attention to one of their younger players and shut down their minuscule scoring potential.

It's a big game for... Will Hayward and Dean Towers

There's a lot of fit players fighting for the final spots in the team, with the policy typically being last in, first out.

Hayward has performed exceptionally well at times throughout the season, but will he remain in the side now that Cunningham is fit again, as well as Papley and Hannebery expected to return.

The same can be said for Towers, who's ultimately battling it out with Cunningham for that final "utility" role in the team. They both play different styles, with Towers capable of playing defensive roles and pinch hitting in the ruck, while Cunningham can play virtually anywhere except key positions.

Hayward and Towers have to perform if they're going to retain their spots in the team and force the selection panel to consider other players.

The depth two years ago was thin, and one would struggle to see where the next star was coming from, let alone where the depth was, but it's there now and they're falling over themselves in a stocked NEAFL team.

Prediction

The Swans are going to stick the knife in Carlton and its not going to be pretty. Jed Lamb did a great job on Sicily last weekend, but if they go back to that well, there'll be fireworks across the ground. The Swans won't stand for it, even if they're safe in the top 6.

The Swans will assert themselves and dominate the blues by 90 points. Franklin to kick 8 and give himself an outside chance at the coleman medal, while Kennedy will notch up 35+, 20 contested and go beast mode in another best on ground performance.

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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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