Swans have found their Kryptonite

Match report - Player ratings

Good afternoon all, I wish I could tell you its another great Swans weekend, but alas, with the scrappy performance on Friday, it's not so great.

The Swans lost their 2nd game to the Hawks this season, their second loss since round 6. That's a very impressive run of form, having beaten most of the other top 8, or thereabout teams, and the Giants.

I thought it was a good idea to stay off social media for a while, avoiding the usual vitriol after a game like that. What I did see wasn't pretty reading, but everyone grieves in their own way, so it's not my place to tell them how to deal with disappointment.

But being a passionate supporter is one thing, and being a blogger is another. While I passionately follow the Swans, I still feel that I have a certain responsibility to make sure I take a breath or two, or an hour or two, to digest, and settle, before I write anything.

If there's one thing that's distinctly different, it's the experience and what you see at the ground, compared with what you see on TV.

To put it plainly, the Swans were slammed in the umpiring department in the first half, and the Hawks truly benefitted from it.

But to simply blame the loss on umpiring is completely unfair, even taking into consideration the laughably bad goal line decision that was clearly punched across.

The loss for the Swans started earlier in the week with players that weren't quite fit enough to play. Two players being late withdrawals before the match starts points towards poor player management. One you can take, but two? How does that even happen?

I don't think it's realistic that both players were stricken down as soon as they stepped off the plane. Rohan has a track record of back-related issues, so if there was any doubt over his fitness, I don't understand even bringing him to Melbourne.

The same goes for Lloyd, who missed through hip tightness. Obviously they had these issues during the week, but could train through them. Otherwise, you've got to go back through their activities over the previous 36 hours to find out what they were doing.

I could understand Robinson coming in for Lloyd, it made a bit of sense, even if his form didn't warrant him being a travelling emergency, but Foote? I couldn't understand it on the night, and as the game progressed, the selection seemed even more bizarre.

If anything from the first 6 rounds taught us, its that he's not quite AFL standard, at least not in this team. There's no way he should be pushing out any of the other midfielders ahead of him. 9 possessions, 2 contested, and didn't lay a single tackle. His kicks rarely hit targets, let alone his handballs.

I don't know what the situation is with Aliir, but if there ever was a game to bring him in as an emergency, it was this one. As the game wore on, my fear of Melican being exploited was realised.

With Aliir sitting in the stands as another traveling emergency, and both Robinson and Foote having zero impact on the game, and the defence under all kinds of pressure, I wasn't the only one confused by this call. It was the wrong selection to make, but the club can't come out and say it, because it undermines the team.

If players like Hiscox, Lamb and Jack have taught us, good NEAFL performances don't necessarily translate to good AFL performances, and as far as Foote is confirmed, he's had enough chances.

As far as Aliir is concerned, either play him, or trade him. There's no point having him as a traveling emergency, leave him in the stands, and watch the defence get absolutely reamed in the air, which Rampe was kind enough to point out after the game.

“It is something we pride ourselves on and something we have been really good at all year as a defensive unit,” Rampe told SEN Radio.

“That summed up our night which is the most disappointing thing because we have been good at it all year and it just shouldn’t happen.

“We pride ourselves in the air in particular with contested marks and we got beaten in that area.”

While Aliir isn't a particularly great one-on-one defender, his pace and reading of the game is fantastic and probably the best in the team.

There's no point singling out one player, I've already done the ratings, but there were too many instances where Melican was exposed for pace and body work by players who were far better than what he's played against.

Burgoyne did him on the inside to kick the Hawks first goal. Roughead stepped around him when Melican went to body up in the 2nd quarter and completely lost sight of the ball.

He's a fan favourite, almost has a cult following, and I think that it's fantastic that he's come into the side, has built trust with those around him. At the same time, he hasn't exactly set the world on fire, but I think there's a romanticism about his rise from the rookie list.

Against teams with a lot of pace and good foot skills, the Swans struggle. The Hawks played the exact same game style that beat the Swans in round 10, and it beat the Swans again.

But if we're going to single out Melican for a few mistakes, what about Franklin? His first half was one of the absolute worst I've seen any player play. 5 disposals, 5 clangers, 3 free kicks against, no impact on the game whatsoever, including two of the worst shots on goal you'll ever see.

It was an incredibly poor performance from the superstar and the Hawks work early in the game to put him off, especially Hodge, worked wonders. He kicked one goal from a 50m penalty, and did almost nothing afterwards.

I spoke with Ted Richards in the latest SwansCast during the week, and I asked him if players are sometimes distracted by milestone games, or try too much. His answer was enlightening and perhaps reflective of what happened on Friday.

Credit definitely goes to the Swans for sticking with the Hawks, even when they rarely had the ball, or turned it over with impunity in the third quarter. Six points is nothing to cry over, but it's still gut wrenchingly disappointing, and bitterly hard to swallow.

Where last year the Swans were exposed by fast ball moving teams, like the Giants and Dogs, they've worked very hard to prevent those game styles breaking them down. They've evolved their team defence to use a rolling zonal defence, and it works against teams that try to move it quickly with little precision and direction.

But against teams that control the ball, the Swans have been beaten three times this season, six to Hawthorn twice, and one to Collingwood early on. Fortunately, none of the top 8 teams play a controlling style, since the fast play style exposes it on the rebound.

The good news for the Swans this weekend is that they're still an outside chance for top 4. It's a real tough ask, but with teams around them slipping up, and St Kilda almost doing the Swans a mighty favour, anything is possible.

It doesn't get much harder though, with extremely difficult away games against the Cats next weekend and the Crows in three weeks time. Win those, and the Swans will finish 4th, or 5th, but lose those two and 10 wins from 12 games will be for naught.

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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 https://theswansblog.com

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