It's been a busy couple of days here at The Swans Blog, looking at other publishing platforms, settling on one, setting it up and getting it on the world wide web.
I watched transfixed as Fremantle beat the Dogs out west, Crows run over the top of Port, but missed the most important, and for any Swans fan out there, the most pleasurable game of the weekend, Gold Coast thrashing Hawthorn.
It was a massive win for the fledgling club, and hopefully it kick starts their season. They've been little more than irrelevant since the McKenna days, so here's hoping. With all the noise about Ablett during the week, it served as a necessary distraction for the club, almost like taking one for the team.
Talking about distractions, I needed a significant one for the first quarter. That was by far one of the worst quarters I've ever seen the Swans play, even worse than the days when Roos's teams could barely score more than 10 points in a half. The team started slow, and stayed slow. Part of it had to do with confidence, a lot of it had to do with composure, and with all the nonsense in the media about rule clarifications, its little surprise the players were confused.
They were throwing it away as soon as they had it, treating it like a bar of soap. That's what happens when the AFL tries to 'crack down' on loose interpretations, and instead creates an environment where the player with the ball has absolutely nothing to win, only everything to lose, by attacking it.
Another factor was undeniably youth and the naivety that comes with it. I discussed it Friday morning in the previous post:
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.
The first quarter bore all the hallmarks of too much youth and inexperience, but its unfair to just throw that as a label and excuse the performance. Too many factors were at play, but more significantly, the lack of senior leadership. Lloyd and Kennedy had decent numbers in the first quarter, as did Hannebery, but neither of them did anything with the ball, or helped calm the nerves of the players.
The next three quarters were more like the Sydney team that we know. I'm not sure what the time spent in each halves would have been, but I'd think that it would be close to 65% / 35% our way. There were long periods of play where the ball didn't get past the forward flank. It is in direct contrast to the forward quarter, and to be frank about it, the contest should have been over. Collingwood kept the Swans in it, along with desperate defending, albeit with disgraceful disposals.
Its time to address the elephant in the room, Callum Sinclair. His start to 2015 was promising, he brought athleticism to the side that they'd lacked in ruckmen for a long time. He always struggled in the contests, but offered plenty going forward and around the ground. Fast forward to 2016, he's played 1 AFL game, 1 NEAFL game, several JLT games, and he's only impressed in the NEAFL. He was well beaten in the ruck on Friday night, and even worse, his disposal was rubbish.
I'm not sure how AFL rates players on nights, but here's the run down, and it isn't pretty reading: 8 disposals, 4 contested, 3 clangers, 37.5% DE, 14 hit outs, 2 marks inside 50, 1 free against, 6 tackles, 1 point. I had him as the worst Swan on the ground by some margin. Even when he had clean disposal, he messed it up. He's not AFL quality and probably never will be.
But then you have to weight up whether or not it was the right time to bring Darcy Cameron in. It would have made an inexperienced team even more so, and the safe pick was Sinclair. Considering the team, the stakes, and how it played out, it made sense during the week. But during the game you could see just how far out of his depth Callum is, and how poor he looks compared to Camerons' JLT form. As promising as it was, it would have been a case of one too many debutants on the night. In hindsight, Sinclair isn't the right choice, and I wished Cameron played, but it was the right choice then, and it ended up being the right choice anyway, with Collingwood tackling past 100.
It's also worth looking at the young players and how they're already breaking into the team. It's going to be hard to displace Newman, who's already proven himself capable and becoming and important player in the back line. He's no spring chicken, but has plenty of NEAFL experience, so the transition has been a lot easier for him. Then you've got rookie Robbie Fox who's come in with aplomb, he's 23. Hayward and Florent have impressed the most in my mind. Florent has bagged himself a few goals, while Hayward was our best and most threatening forward on the night.
There's also youngsters Foote, Mills and Dawson, two of which debuted this season. Foote, like Newman, has plenty of experience in the NEAFL, and he's shown a bit there, earning his stripes last season. He's backed up this year, chomping at the bit. He's a bit of a brute, throws himself about, and hacks at the ball, but gets stuck in, so there's a bit to worth there. Dawson did ok, but I suspect that he debuted with a team that wasn't so inexperienced, he would have had an easier time of it. Stats wise he did ok, 10 disposals, didn't turn it over and tackled a bit, and played just over half the game.
I think there's a lot to like about this young, developing team. Last year would have been an incredible story had we won it, but it was equally impressive to just make the grand final. But now we're down on some of those players, traded, retired and injured. It would be great to have players like Heeney and Papley out there, relieving the pressure on the forwards and midfielders, winning games on their own.
Right, that's all for now. More news will be up tomorrow.
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