SwansCast Episode 38 - Subverting expectations

Good morning all on this fine Tuesday morning. It's bright and crisp here in sunny Melbourne, and wherever you may be, happy Tuesday! It's got to be happy, because Saturday night wasn't anywhere near my happy place.

ReportRatingsPOTYTalking points - Longmire - Franklin - Menzel

All I wanted was a Happy Gilmore type fantasy, beer and crocodiles and a smiling Lance Franklin smashing his opponents. What we got was the ghost of Franklin, playing arguably the worst game he's played since his debut season.

2 disposals in 3 quarters of football is not good, but worse yet, he wasn't anywhere near fit enough to play. That's not on Franklin, that's on the coaches, fitness team and medical team. Every player is going to put their hand up and declare themselves fit, it's up to the experts to make that final decision.

There's been a lot of talk about Franklin and his performance since Saturday. While it's easy to say that it wasn't just him, 19 other blokes performed below par for most of the match, most of those guys aren't being paid almost $1.5 million a year.

Last year he was a bit of a lightning rod and fair enough. He's a genuine superstar of the competition, still the highest paid player and the expectations are that he tears every game apart. At 32, he's still more than capable of doing it and luckily his skill, agility and strength have contributed to his freakish longevity in the game.

Last year it was unfair to whack him from pillar to post. He barely trained, the medical staff did everything they could just to get him up every week, and sometimes he couldn't even move, yet still kicked bags. Surgery on his groin in the off season and almost no training until a month ago should have been enough for the selection committee to give it another week.

https://twitter.com/7AFL/status/1109417797610696704

He played, he wasn't great, he didn't get injured and he kicked a goal. He converts that chance with just over 6 minutes left and the Swans could have won. Ifs and buts - he didn't. He spent half of the last quarter on the bench and by the end of the game, could barely sprint.

Longmire said in his press conference that he was on managed minutes throughout the game, playing just 79 percent - his lowest in almost a year. It's the first round of football for the season, why are we risking injury with unfit players? Richmond did it with Lynch, Melbourne with Viney - there's still six months of football left to play.

It's not all doom and gloom, despite the pasting they copped in the first half. Down by 33 points, with their lowest first-half score in over a decade, the Swans outscored the Bulldogs by 16 points and almost snatched victory.

It begs belief that it took almost three quarters of football for the players to figure out that they have to try to win the football, actually crack in and give it a red-hot shot. The flaffing about, flicking and finessing in the first half was torn to absolute shreds by the Bulldogs, who were at their ruthless best.

Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontompelli and Lachie Hunter played without opponents, tearing the game apart. If it wasn't for their wastefulness in front of goal, the margin may well have been more, and it should have been. 40 points early in the third quarter didn't do the difference in play any justice what so ever.

It was great to see the Swans come back and the crowd let the players know they were behind them. Even a flog security guard, confiscating the hand drum of a Swans cheer-squad member, couldn't quell the passion they exuded. At times the noise was deafening for both sides, really building a quality rivalry between two unlikely teams.

Jake Lloyd was influential for the Swans, finished with 35 disposals, 10 marks, 630 metres gained and 9 rebound 50s, as well as 3 votes in the AFL Coaches Association Champion Player of the Year award. He was the only Swan to poll votes and deserved it.

Tom Papley impressed in the first-half, while Luke Parker, George Hewett and Josh Kennedy tried to drag the team over the line in the last quarter. It was all too late, with the Bulldogs snuffing the sizzle out of the game, kicking two majors with a couple of minutes left.

Isaac Heeney's spectacular mark was one of the true highlights of the match, along with Nick Blakey kicking his first senior goal, linking up with Franklin when he kicked his first, and Ryan Clarke booting his major.

https://twitter.com/AFL/status/1109393164685598720

Sam Reid, Callum Mills and Lewis Melican returned from long injury lay offs with mixed results. Reid's quality started to shine through in the second half, kicking two goals, while Mills grew as the match wore on. Melican on the other hand was completely at sea, comprehensively beaten by his direct opponents, conceding 4 free kicks, 2 of which were goals.

The Swans want to develop him into the long-term replacement for Heath Grundy, but there's always been question marks over his pace, or lack-of. On Saturday, it looked as though he had lost a quite a lot more than a yard of pace, easily closed down multiple times when he found himself with a paddock of space, and couldn't close his opponents down.

You have to wonder if his multiple hamstring tears in both legs have had more of an impact than the Swans are willing to admit, and if it's permanent. We've seen players like Chris Judd, Cyril Rioli and Gary Ablett suffer from repeated hamstring tears, losing mobility and pace. Lewis tore both hamstrings multiple times last year, worse than any of those other players did. Lots to think about.

Big thanks to Steven Park for joining me on this weeks' episode of the SwansCast. Enjoy the week and the episode! We're back on Thursday night for team discussions and the Crows preview.

As always, hit us up on social media using the tag @theswansblog, or the hash tag #SwansCast and #SwansCastExtra.

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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 http://theswansblog.com

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