Collingwood Preview + Dempster

Morning all, its finally Friday and there's football action tonight, as we take on Collingwood at the SCG.

We've been without a win for too long and its time to rinse and repeat the Pies. We hammered them last year and they never recovered, spending the entire season outside of the top 8. It propelled our season, finishing 1st and eventually a 2nd grand final in 3 seasons. Less said about that game the better.

The previous game between the two teams, was the first one back for Franklin after his break from football. He was back with a bang, snagged the first inside a minute, and finished with 4. He was immense for the Swans, leading the forward line brilliantly, with Papley and Hewett snapping around his feet. It was a sign of things to come, nearly winning the coleman medal and a whisker short of a 3rd flag.

Looking at both teams, its hard to see who has better form. Collingwood have been competitive in both of their opening games, taking the lead several times, only to fall away at the end. They had their chances against the Dogs, but ultimately collapsed in a heap, whereas Richmond took control of the game during the 3rd quarter. They're averaging 83 points for and 99 against, so not exactly a ringing endorsement of a top 8 team.

Then we look at the Swans. The first game against Port was disappointing to say the least. They were outworked, outrun, outscored, and just out played all over the park. It was tight and tough but Port were good enough in the 2nd half to take the game. The Dogs was another matter, taking the lead in the last quarter after a blistering 10 minute spell from Franklin, only to have it painfully taken away. There were chances to win both games, but a combination of fitness and work rate took it away.

The Swans are averaging just 1 point for more than Collingwood, with 84, but a whopping 11 more points against, with 110. That was unheard of last season, even with all the new players. It's a new year and a new list, but fitness issues have still cropped up. Early season injuries, and even pre-season injuries have already affected the performance of the midfield trio, as well as cutting down Rampe and Tippett. It's not even robbing Peter to pay Paul, it's robbing them both and burning the money in a warehouse.

At least the Swans are playing the kids again. Looking back to 2014, we had one of the oldest and most experienced lists in the AFL. Last season, we almost won the flag with what would have been the least experienced AFL team in history. This year, it's like we're trying to out do GWS and GCS when they first entered the competition.

The oldest player this week is Grundy (30), then followed by Franklin (30), Kieren Jack (29), Nick Smith (28), Josh Kennedy (28), Sinclair (27), Hannebery (26), Reid (25), Naismith (24) and Parker (24). That's the oldest 10 taking the field tonight, averaging 28.1 years, with 1491 games experience, just shy of 150 per player.

Then you look at the next 12 players, and almost all of them have played under 25 games. Newman (24), Fox (23), Lloyd (23), Marsh (23), Aliir (22), Jones (22), Hewett (21), Foote (21), Mills (20), Dawson (19), Florent (18), Hayward (18), averaging 23.3 years, with 184 games experience, just over 15 per player. Regardless how you look at it, the difference between the top 8-10 players and the next 12-14 is stunning. It's an incredible 1300 game difference, almost as many games as Plugger goals.

When the top half don't perform, its inevitable the team underperforms. Mitchell wasn't an experienced player, but he had the body to win the ball in tight, and good hands to dish it off. Last season the Swans could rely on Parker, Mitchell and Hannebery to win the ball when Kennedy was resting forward, or not quite 100%. But this season, Kennedy, Parker and Hannebery aren't close to 100%, and the next best is Jones and Hewett. Even though the Swans crushed the Dogs early in the clearances, and overall they still won out, they're getting dominated on the spread.

So with a young list of just 23.3 years on average, and an absurd games played average of just 76, here's hoping the Swans can get the job done.

In other news, former Swans defender and '05 premiership player, Sean Dempster announced his retirement from AFL, citing head injuries as the primary reason. It isn't surprising to say the least, with a fair bit of chatter since the pre-season if he would continue for this season. His latest head knock in the JLT series against Port Adelaide, gave him pause to reflect on his future in the game.

"I copped a little head knock and given my history over my career of receiving quite a few head knocks I've decided that it's a risk that's too great for me," Dempster told the club's website.

"Especially now that I've got a young family, it's more than just worrying about myself it's what it means to my wife and my young daughter.

"For the last couple of weeks the club has given me some time to myself and some time to go and get some independent testing done, which I'm still going through at the moment and is an ongoing assessment.

"The testing had nothing to do with my want to retire, I know it's the best thing to do for me and my family."

He was a great player for the Swans and Saints. He debuted in round 3, 2005 and went on to play in the grand final that year, and '06 for the Swans, before moving to St Kilda in 2007. He then played in the '09, '10 & '10 replay grand finals for the Saints. He finally won recognition with his 2012 All Australian guernsey.

He was a great clubman and a reliable player for us and the Saints. All the best Sean, you were most definitely loved by all.

Last time they met

R1, 2016, Sydney 18.25 (133) d Collingwood 7.11 (53) at the SCG

Sydney kicked off their impressive 2016 season with a dominant performance, thrashing the listless Pies. It was the only game that Talia played for the season, and Dane Swans' final game of his career, both suffering rare Lisfranc fractures.

Franklin scored the first goal of the game inside a minute, finishing with 4 for match, and the Swans never looked back. Parker was immense and took the 3 brownlow votes, the early leader of the AFL. Rookie player Tom Papley kicked off a stellar debut season, kicking 3 goals, while Mitchell, Hewett and Cunningham joined in.

Last 5 meetings

R1, 2016, Sydney 18.25 (133) d Collingwood 7.11 (53) at the SCG
R20, 2015, Sydney 13.9 (87) d Collingwood 10.16 (76) at the SCG
R2, 2014, Collingwood 12.17 (89) d Sydney 10.9 (69) at ANZ Stadium
R20, 2013, Collingwood 14.16 (100) d Sydney 10.11 (71) at ANZ Stadium
R9, 2013, Sydney 15.12 (102) d Collingwood 8.7 (55) at the MCG

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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

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