Morning all, it's game day as we take on the Eagles in Perth tonight. The game kicks of 6.10pm AWST, and 8.10pm AEST.
A new week, a new opponent and a new team. A chance for redemption, atonement and an opportunity to start afresh. At least thats the optimistic side of me, looking at the game.
Not much went well for us last week. A calamitous, and most definitely forgettable first quarter of football, almost put us out of the match. A better team would have put us to the sword, but credit to the Swans for working their way into the game. It was close, we took the lead in the last, but ultimately fell short in the final seconds. The task of finishing top 4 was made all the more difficult, and another loss tonight will make it virtually impossible. We've managed it before, finishing 1st in 2014 from 1-4, including a club equalling record of 12 straight wins, but this is a different team.
There's a lot of anticipation surrounding this game, with both sides announcing changes. In a bit of a shock for the Swans, Naismith injured his knee in the final training session before the extended squad traveled. Tippett didn't recover in time, and to really stick the fork in and twist, Cameron hurt his shoulder on the weekend. It really is one of those rare situations when a club has 3 ruckman out injured, and they're forced to play forwards or defenders in the ruck. I really hope we don't have to see Aliir rucking, or Sam Reid spending big minutes in there.
West Coast aren't without their own issues. They're similarly affected in the ruck department, with their first two preferred players injured. Jack Darling may yet still miss, even though he's pushing for selection today with a fitness test in the morning. That's good for us, because it frees Marsh up to take another player, like Le Cras or Yeo if he plays forward. Even luckless former Swan Lewis Jetta has been dropped for poor form.
Playing the first game of the weekend for the third week already this season is proving to be a bit of a downer. We've been treated as guinea pigs, stabbed, prodded, poked and eventually slaughtered. We've been put to the sword over the increasingly inconsistent standard of umpiring, that saw free kicks being paid for nothing, to absolutely no free kicks being paid. And we still finished last in free kicks for, for the round. Still getting boned. What I wouldn't give for this game to be on Sunday.
The good news for us is that Tom Papley is returning to the side, fresh off the long term injury list. It's great to have him back, even though he's barely trained, didn't play a minute of JLT football, nor has he played in the NEAFL. If this isn't the definition of rushing someone back in, I don't know what is. We could have stuck with Dawson, or played Brandon Jack, or even gone with Dean Towers. I love the kid and I hope he'll do well, but one has to wonder if getting him back straight away isn't going to cause injury. Longmire on the other hand is looking forward to having him in the side, and thinks he can change things up.
“It’s good to have him back in, he gives us great energy, he’s an important goal kicker for us,” Longmire told Centrum Team Selection.
“Tom’s ability to play as that small, crumbing forward in our front half has been really missed over the last few weeks so it’s good to have him back in and hopefully he’s really lively in our front half.”
It's a fair point too, because that small forward has been sorely missed. I just hope we don't lose him through injury as well.
We don't have any player milestones this weekend, but we do have a club milestone, and one I hope the players are well aware of and don't want to repeat. I speak of 1993, the worst ever season for Sydney Swans or South Melbourne. If we can't get over the line tonight, it'll be our worst start since that horrific, one-win season. We're a long way off those days, but its still a disappointing way to start the season, having won the minor premiership and narrowly lost the grand final.
Last week I discussed the youthfulness and lack of experience, and what it might mean on the night. We were the 4th youngest/least experienced team of the weekend, and it showed. It wouldn't be such an obvious, calamitous situation, if most of the senior players weren't down on form, or playing injured. Players like Kennedy, Parker and Hannebery were uncharacteristically poor in the first two weeks, and while their performances last round were improvements, they're still a fair way off their best. This is the same Parker that was killing it in the Brownlow race, finishing runners up. He was playing so ridiculously good, that he would have won it by the midway point of the season, if he didn't have knee tendonitis.
We're carrying too many players at the moment and it's having a big impact on the team. Nick Smith had his colours well and truly lowered, putting in an awful shift. Grundy, bizarrely rated highly by SEN, was towelled up by Moore, and shifted to another opponent. It was Jones that kept Moore quiet in the 2nd half, while Grundy played on the deepest forward. Our midfield has to significantly lift as well. While Lloyd hasn't dropped off, even picked up the slack since Mitchell left, Parker and Hannebery have been no where near their best, especially Kieren Jack.
Fitness no doubt is a problem the club is dealing with. Jack was rushed into the side without a pre-season, and his numbers as well down on usual. Kennedy hardly played midfield in the JLT, and he looked unfit. Even Hannebery and Parker looked unfit, along with Grundy, Smith, Cunningham and Mills. If you're old enough, and you're good enough, then you have to be held accountable regardless how experienced you are. With less than 30 games played, Mills is one of those up-and-coming players, that senior players in the team already look to for guidance.
All that has to change this weekend. They've got to go out and attack the ball from the first whistle, prove that they're up for the fight. West Coast can be frighteningly good with their parochial crowed, but they've been cowed lately. They're lucky to be 2-1, stealing victory from the clutches of defeat against the Saints. The players have to put the umpire bias out of their minds, focus on their roles, working as hard as they possibly can to get the four points.
The Eagles are beatable at home and we've got the wood over them, winning 9 of the last 10, including 5 of the last 6 at Subiaco. It's a ground they're familiar with and play well. We've got a formidable forward line, players kicking goals, and defenders improving each week. If Franklin can break the shackles, he might even reach the 800 club.
Grundy vs Kennedy
Without a doubt the most important match up of the game. He's their talisman, and while we an abundance of small to mid sized defenders, to take the likes of LeCras and Yeo, we're light on for tall, fast defenders. It may be that Aliir takes Kennedy, but I think Grundy is better suited to the role.
Aliir vs Darling
Darling is still 50-50 for the match, so we might even make a late change with someone like Jack coming in. Should Darling play, Aliir has to make him accountable. Take him on every chance, run and spread, carry the ball.
Franklin/Reid vs McGovern
McGovern is arguably the best intercept marker in the league. He takes a lot, every match. The last time we played at Subiaco, was during another injury crisis, when the Eagles were up and we were sinking fast. They hit him lace out almost every time we went forward. If we're to win the game, they have to go around him.
Priddis vs Kennedy
Two Brownlow medalist going up against the three time Bob Skilton medalist. They set the tempo for their teams, and whoever gets first use out of the middle will win the game. Break even or win, at all costs.
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