The Swans made hard work from a relatively straight forward fixture on Friday night, facing a dogged but injury riddled Carlton outfit on Friday, kicking off the Sir Doug Nicholls round of football.
Isaac Heeney won the Goodes-O’Loughlin medal for best on ground, but it was the performances of Callum Sinclair and Oliver Florent that turned heads.
Carlton held sway at half-time with many Sydney Swans fans scratching their heads, but a ten-minute patch late in the third quarter gave the Swans the impetus heading into the last quarter, booting five unanswered goals.
Swans coach John Longmire lamented the Swans inconsistent application of intensity throughout the match, turning it on in fits and bursts, threatening to blow the Blues away, before turning the initiative over.
“Our intensity was probably up and down throughout the course of the game, and you really noticed it when we were really having a go,” Longmire said.
“Then we just relaxed a little bit with that – we kicked 5.10 from turnovers for instance.
“You flick that around and you're pretty efficient with the ball.
“If we had hit the scoreboard a bit more effectively – as far as shots at goal – it ends up being a bit better win, but you're always after that even performance.”
Despite Carlton’s dearth of tall depth, especially with Levi Casboult missing through injury, Longmire wasn’t surprised that Carlton would bring intense pressure in their defensive half.
Carlton almost stole the game away from Geelong last week with the same formula they used against the Swans, leading at half-time by one point.
“They had some genuine tall's out there, and we didn't have a lot of talls apart from Lance,” Longmire said.
“We understood that was going to be the plan, we just needed to use the ball better going forward, and we would have been a bit more efficient.
“Carlton’s pressure was pretty good, and we didn't use it as well as we could at different times.
“When we did use it, we were able to get uncontested marks and make it easier for us.”
Sydney’s fielding their youngest forward line in years, with Tom Papley (50 games), Ben Ronke (6 games) and Will Hayward (27 games) already established players, despite their youth, led by Lance Franklin, Kieren Jack and Gary Rohan.
Longmire acknowledged that they’re going to be inconsistent from week-to-week, and even quarter-to-quarter, but has been impressed by Florent’s rapid rise.
“We've got a really young forward group,” Longmire said.
“We had six in front of the ball for a fair bit of the game, not the whole game. You've got (Ryley) Stoddart, (Ben) Ronke, and there's a number of young kids in that forward group.
“It's about finding time and getting that right, they understand it but they're just getting used to it and we were really happy with (Oliver) Florent's game tonight.
“He was really good, he's been good for a fair period of time.
“Those younger kids are playing key roles for us. Sometimes when our structure wavers a little bit, that might happen as well (Carlton's defenders intercepting the ball), but they've still been playing pretty well.”
Oliver Florent’s form this season is almost unrecognisable from last season – he’s breaking tackles, lines and laying his own bone crunching hits.
Sydney’s first two picks at the NAB AFL Draft in 2016 are forming a damaging duo, with both players capable of playing multiple roles.
“He and Will (Hayward), and a couple of the other kids have been really good, and they need to be, because they're playing really important roles, not just coming in and playing bit parts to our team now,” Longmire said.
“They're playing key roles for us and taking some of the load off our senior midfielders. Ollie's run and carry has been important for us.”
Callum Sinclair has been a revelation for the Swans this season, and at the end of the round, will lead the Swans in the AFLCA Votes, is the leader in The Swans Blog’s player of the year award, and undoubtedly top-two in the Swans’ Bob Skilton Medal count.
While Matthew Kruezer had his number in the ruck contests, Callum Sinclair punished him around the ground, finished with 22 possessions and two goals, a performance that Longmire was happy with.
“He's been ok so far and he's a pretty fit bloke, a naturally fit bloke and he gets around the ground well, and he's been competing well,” Longmire said.
“I think he's just grown a bit of confidence knowing that he's got an important role in the team and fulfilling that most weeks.
“The responsibility is firmly on his shoulders, and so far he's been pretty good.”
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