Swans crumble under weight of sensational expectations

Match report - Player ratings

If you haven't caught up with football events this week, the news of Sydney's demise might be surprising to you. Unfortunately for those that witnessed the final match of the 2017 season, it was nothing like the sensational Swans we've been spoiled with.

People's expectations were high following their sensational performance against the Bombers. Geelong on the other hand were expected to be flogged off the park by the Swans following their disappointing qualifying final loss.

The result was anything but what was expected, the Swans turning in a fatigued performance against the red-hot Cats team. Not only were they seeking revenge for lacklustre performances against the Swans in recent years, but trying to right the wrongs of their qualifying final loss a week earlier.

The Swans flogged the Bombers off the park in their elimination final, ending the match five minutes into the second quarter with one of Franklin's best five minute spells. Unfortunately the intensity, passion and verve was missing against the Cats as they ran rampant and sent the Swans packing.

It's been six long months since the Swans kicked off their campaign against Port Adelaide at the SCG. Six straight losses, some of them more depressing than disappointing, and the Swans were well and truly written off. It was a shock to the system with so many expecting the Swans to challenge for the flag again, let alone supporters that were so used to seeing the Swans win.

The Swans were back to their best after the bye, punishing teams, physically beating them up and dominating them not only on the scoreboard, but in almost every facet of the game. Only Adelaide and Hawthorn managed to stay close, and even the Crows game had controversy attached to it.

So perhaps it isn't unexpected that the Swans would crumble so close to the finish line. Like a long distance runner falling over at the start, they spent everything they had catching up to the pack before gassing out on the final lap.

All but written off, the Swans set AFL/VFL records in their amazing recovery. They're the only team to make the finals after starting the season with six straight losses. They hold the highest ever finals second quarter score, putting ten goals past the Bombers in their elimination final win.

They set club records too; their highest ever football match attendance at the SCG, their highest first half finals score at the SCG and their largest finals winning margin at the SCG.

For some it won't be enough for another forgettable finals performance, one that's coming with frustrating irregularity. Rusted on supporters will know a thing or two about misery, suffering through the ignominy of the 80's relocation, the early 90's shocking performances and being a vote or two away from disappearing altogether.

Newer supporters like myself, who followed the club during the mid-90's or even early 2000's only know success, finals and the brilliant club as it is now. They only know of Paul Roos and John Longmire, while some will remember Rodney Eade and his early successes. They won't remember the dark old days when a win was a good as a premiership and celebrated as such, while the club bled players, coaches and money.

It won't excuse the performance on Friday night - not much can - but it's worth looking at it with consideration of the clubs' history, rather than in isolation. It's so easy to look at the result as a single game, self destructive and counter productive, but easy nonetheless. Five grand finals - two of them premierships and 31 finals played since 2005.

The Swans have any number of excuses to use to explain the season away, injuries, umpiring, form and more, but to their credit they haven't shied away from their responsibility. Serious injuries in the finals last season, injuries during the pre-season, poor man management during the season certainly played their role. The club didn't shy away from their mistakes and worked to rectify them, never blaming their losses on injuries and excess of youth, like a certain Ross Lyon did.

The growth on and off the field this season has been amazing. The youthful team has come on in leaps and bounds, Papley, Hewett, Mills and Jones showing great improvement, while the clubs' membership continued to grow. Kennedy's leadership of the team has been sensational and was unlucky not to make the All Australian team. The coaching in particular has been fantastic, masterminding terrific away wins against Greater Western Sydney, Adelaide and Geelong.

Franklin in particular had another great season, killing the Lions, almost winning the game for the Swans against the Bulldogs and Hawks before the bye, while putting ten past Carlton to win the Coleman medal. Let's not forget his ridiculous goal against GWS and his goal of the year against Adelaide.

His five minute burst against Essendon was arguably the best five minutes of any player for the season. His first goal quintessential mark on the lead, his second a terrific snap on his left, and his third almost a sensational mark, before gathering his own crumb and snapping a ridiculous goal, putting the Swans five goals up in the blink of an eye.

While the Swans end to the season was forgettable, their journey to their end was anything but. It's hardly the premiership winning season most supporters expected before it all started, but given we were talking about draft picks in round seven, winning fifteen virtual elimination finals is a terrific result. I'll remember this season fondly for all that was achieved, the fantastic club growth and watching the Swans set new AFL/VFL records.

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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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