Free falling without a parachute

I’m finally back from my mid-season holiday. I couldn’t bring the weather with me, nor the magical formula that might turn the Swans mid-season collapse around. In case you didn’t hear or haven’t really kept up with my sporadic postings over the last 5 weeks, Mrs Blogs and I travelled through America for five weeks, lapping up the sights, the sun and all the drinks we could muster at Vegas, while leaving our kidney’s intact.

The Swans at the moment, resemble a bad night out on the booze, when you hit it too hard, stumble blindly into a random hotel and start bashing down some poor souls’ door. Their poor form started before the bye - despite defeating the Eagles, they managed to go goalless in two quarters. A nasty predicament they’ve repeated since.

Friday night football has been frequently criticised this season, with Carlton taking the Lion’s share of the fixtures and losing every single one of them. While Sydney’s form leading up to the round 19 fixture against Essendon was quite poor, a better performance than the one delivered was expected.

Just like the Suns game the week before, the were worrying signs late in the first quarter and early in the second quarter. The Swans just couldn’t win a hard ball, a contested ball, or get their hands on it. When they did get it, they just gave it away without hesitation.

Whereas Longmire criticised the players for their gung-ho attacking play against the Suns the week before, turning it over with every second or third possession, the Swans resorted to an ultra-conservative style. They passed it slow and wide, rarely venturing forward, certainly not with any great conviction.

When they did finally get the ball forward of half, a clearly unfit Franklin was well and truly beaten by Hurley. While he finished the night with two goals, he had just two possessions to half-time.

Defender Aliir Aliir, who recently signed a 3-year contract extension with the Swans, proved his worth throughout the game, especially in the middle quarters. With the Swans clearly beaten in the midfield and forward line, it was his ability to read the play, intercept the ball, and impact contests that kept the Swans within touching distance.

With just a minute left in the first half, the Swans looked good to hold on to a slender lead. A brain snap, lapse of concentration, complacency, call it whatever you want – they conceded two goals in a little over 30 seconds.

While the third quarter was another closely fought affair, the goals the Swans kicked were all against the run of play. Essendon completely outplayed the Swans, running out easy winners with the Swans managing a single behind in the last quarter.

The Swans don’t have the longest injury list in the AFL, not by a long shot, but just about every key player is down injured. Worse yet, after capitulating to the Suns the week before, Sydney slid not just out of the top 4, but out of the top 8, their biggest negative ladder change since 1938, when they slid from fourth to tenth.

Is it time for a knee-jerk reaction, to reassess where the Swans are this season, where they’re headed and what they need to get right? I think so. Heath Grundy’s recent omission and time in the NEAFL was as baffling a coaching move as ever I’ve seen, while it took far too long to get Aliir back into the side.

The Swans’ future shouldn’t depend on either Sam Reid or Lewis Melican, who are either too inconsistent or injury prone to play key position roles. With Tom McCartin cementing his spot in the team ahead of Sam Reid, arguably playing the same role with greater impact, and young Nick Blakey coming through next season, it might be time to rethink the squad, certainly the pecking order.

Kieren Jack, Heath Grundy and Jarrad McVeigh are all in the twilight of their careers. It wouldn’t be catastrophic if all three retired at the same time, but it certainly wouldn’t be good either. News that McVeigh will stay with the club in a coaching capacity is as welcome as any news, but as far as playing futures go, there’s several massive gaps that simply can’t be filled with the players we have on hand.

Tippett’s retirement frees up cap space and allows the Swans to chase after the players they desperately need, while re-signing those that are pivotal to the Swans’ future. It’s been tough watching the Swans over the last two seasons, riding the unbelievable highs and the lowest of lows. Not much has gone right for the Swans this year, but maybe it’s time to put the season on ice and reset for 2019.

Zak Jones’ two-week suspension provides another opportunity for players like Stoddart, O’Riordan and Dawson to show what they’re capable of, while playing without as much pressure as they’ve had since the bye.

With the Pies coming up this weekend, a win puts the Swans back in the hunt, while a loss all but ends their season. Anything can happen, but with games against the in-form Demons and Hawks, split by the Giants, the Swans will need to find dramatic improvements from their ailing stars to propel them into the finals.

Stay tuned, there's more to come throughout the week.

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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

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