Match preview: 2nd Elimination final, Sydney vs Essendon

Good morning all, it's game day and time for the Swans to crank the pressure right up, and end Essendon's season on a high note - 7th. No team has ever made the finals from an 0-6 start, so here's hoping that the journey continues beyond today.

The last time these two teams played was round 14 in an all-time great finish, with the Swans squandering numerous opportunities in the first 2-and-half quarters, before the Bombers kicked 7 goals in a row to almost put the game beyond the Swans' reach.

Trailing by 19 points with just 5 minutes left, the Swans did the unthinkable, kicking 3 goals and 2 points to snatch victory from the clenched jaws of defeat. Yours truly was well on his way to writing the Swans obituary, already 3 paragraphs into a rather unpleasant match report, before the first of three last-quarter goals was kicked by Florent.

Hmm, what's that you're doing Sydney, do I stop writing? It would be another 4 minutes of game time before the Swans would kick another score, a point to Franklin and 8 minutes between the first and last Sydney goals, to claim the unlikeliest of victories.

"With just 4.44 left on the clock, after a dreary, apathetic and quite frankly incredibly frustrating final term, trailing by 19 points, Florent gave the Swans a glimmer."

Franklin was doing all that he could to win the game for the Swans, bombing point after point - two of them crucial in the end - but it was his pressure that was causing the Essendon defenders to panic. Newman won a crucial one-one-one against Daniher - who'd just taken a spectacular pack mark - in the pocket and snapped a superb goal, while the Swans punished Goddard for an awful passage of play.

https://twitter.com/AFL/status/878239919147065344

It's fair to say that the Swans faithful, let alone the Essendon faithful, would rather the clubs avoid a repeat of events. If one team is going to win it, you'd rather they win it emphatically, rather than having to claw back from the far reaches of defeat, only to break hearts across the country.

Single point victories between the two sides certainly isn't anything new, with Tony "Plugger" Lockett famously putting the Swans into the 1996 grand final with arguably the most famous behind of all time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfSpjX82Ij8

There have been 5 games decided by 1 point since 1996, with two in the same year, Round 15 and the Preliminary final. It wouldn't be unexpected if there was a repeat of the scoreline, with the Swans narrowly winning on both occasions. Blow outs between the two teams aren't exactly a regular occurrence, with 5 games decided by less than 10 points since 2010, with the remaining five games, all won by the Swans at an average of 42 points.

Regardless what happens, its sure to be an exciting battle. The Swans have made 3 changes to the team that flogged Carlton in Round 23, with Hannebery, Papley and Naismith all returning from injury, while Tippett, Hayward and Cunningham make way.

It's unfortunate that Tippett finds himself out of the team on the cusp of the finals, given his improved form, but when you're tweaking both ankles almost every match in ruck and marking contests there's a pretty big underlying issue that needs to be fixed.

Despite the changes, Essendon once again face the Swans without Hooker who's failed to recover in time, while they go in with Hurley and Fantasia clearly underdone, but will no doubt hope for the best.

With Adelaide winning their final despite missing Sloane and losing Brodie Smith to an ACL, and Geelong serving up a performance to forget, against a Richmond side that Struggles to score even on a good day, it's a chance for the winner of this match to put Geelong out of its misery.

Whichever team progresses to the grand final from the 1st side of the draw would have to be raging hot favourites, with Richmond clearly on the favourable side playing one of GWS, Port Adelaide or West Coast, all notoriously bad on the road.

Recent history

The Round 14 match pitted the finals bound Bombers against the rapidly improving Swans, who were well on track to overcoming their 0-6 start, winning five of their last six matches.

The performance was far less predictable than the winner, with the Swans squandering a lot of gilt-edged chances to put the Bombers to the sword.

Despite leading by four goals in a competitive game, they almost rued their inaccuracy in front of goal, having kicked 17 behinds before the Bombers kicked 7 goals in a row, almost tipping the match on its head.

Had the Swans converted some of their simpler chances, it's unlikely the Bombers would have reversed the momentum as much as they did.

Last 5 meetings

R14, 2017, Sydney Swans 11.20 (86) d Essendon 12.13 (85) at the SCG
R7, 2016, Sydney Swans 20.15 (135) d Essendon 7.12 (54) at the SCG
R1, 2015, Sydney Swans 10.12 (72) d Essendon 9.6 (60) at ANZ Stadium
R19, 2014, Sydney Swans 11.13 (79) d Essendon 8.9 (57) at the SCG
R9, 2014, Sydney Swans 18.6 (114) d Essendon 9.10 (64) at Etihad Stadium

The Swans dominate the recent head-to-heads, winning 9 from the last 10 matches, while Essendon haven't beaten the Swans at the SCG since 2009.

It's a big game for... Sam Naismith

His return from injury in the NEAFL was as timely a return as one could get. He was dominant in the ruck, easily winning hit outs to advantage, collecting 17 disposals in a near-best on ground performance.

With Kurt Tippett under an injury cloud, given his failure to play out the match, despite Sinclair rolling his ankle and playing out the match, Naismith has to perform to keep his spot in the team.

Tippett will be doing his utmost in the reserves grand final following the senior match, and should the Swans set-up a semi-final with Geelong, he'll be doing as much as he can to win the spot back.

But for now, the ruck combination of Sinclair and Naismith looks to be the first choice.

Prediction

The Bombers are going to come out fired up, but with the Swans winning their last three elimination finals since 2008, it's hard to see where the Bombers will be competitive long enough to beat the Swans.

The Swans hold almost all the cards in a stacked deck, with superstars on almost every line of the field, while the Bombers' will rely heavily on Hurley, Daniher and Merrett to win the match.

If the Bombers go with Hartley on Franklin, expect them to throw the towel in before quarter time and roll Hurley, freeing up Sinclair to do what he does best.

Franklin's "wonder boots" will be well and truly laced up for this one, returning to his damaging best against his "bunnies"; seven for Franklin in another best on field performance with the Swans victorious by 45 points.

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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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