Match report: Youngsters hang tough in thrilling win

There are games when a team is right up against it before the game even starts, their backs are truly up against the wall, down on form, injuries, experience, and everything that counts.

Throw down the chips, see what may fall, and sometimes, it just goes right.

But then again, there are times when an underdog is given the freedom to perform, and their coaches set them up for victory.

This was one of those times.

John Longmire's coaching has been nothing short of superb the last two weeks, turning around a team that depended so heavily on its ageing stars, into an exciting young outfit, that take the game on, risk everything, and have come away with two wins.

They've maintained their perfect Tasmanian record, and better than that, won 3 from 3 against North Melbourne in Hobart.

It was a true nail-biter, backs against the wall stuff - Melbourne last year, down to two men was excruciating to watch, but I can't remember a more tense 15 minutes in my football life.

You just knew the Kangaroos were coming, and come they did, throwing everything they had, including the kitchen sink into every thrust forward.

They had the ball on a string for the entire last quarter, but a midfield made up of players with barely 100 games experience dug their heels in, and grimly held on.

In doing so, the Swans notched their third win of the season in a nail-biting, thrilling 5-point win at Blundstone Arena on Saturday night.

Captain Josh Kennedy was a late out, with midfielder Ryan Clarke coming in just before the first bounce, while dependable player Zak Jones injured his hamstring midway through the second quarter.

They did not wilt, they did not tire, and the 11 players with less than 50 games experience contributed strongly throughout the match. They simply refused to yield.

Having surged to the lead with a barnstorming 7-goal second quarter, brilliantly lead by forward Tom Papley (4 goals), Sydney kicked away to a 33-point lead early in the last quarter.

Out on their feet in the last stanza, the Swans somehow repelled wave after wave of North Melbourne attack, and were forced to dig incredibly deep to hold off a tsunami of pressure.

The Kangaroos kept coming, reducing the margin to just 5-points with less than two minutes remaining when Jared Polec nailed a goal from the boundary.

It was desperate team defence, and several telling intercepts by Jordan Dawson (24 disposals, 5 intercept possessions, 7 marks), that kept the Kangaroos at bay.

George Hewett (29 disposals, 20 contested, 6 clearances) starred in his captains absence, while late in Ryan Clarke (19 disposals) limited the normally influential Shaun Higgins (20 disposals, 5 turnovers).

With Josh Kennedy missing, the Swans turned in their most inexperienced team for years, averaging just 53 games experience per player.

It counted for little, even when under siege during the last quarter, the young Swans somehow found a way to record a hard-earned win.

Forwards Tom McCartin (5 marks, 1 goal) and Nick Blakey (6 tackles, 1 goal), dealt with an enormous amount of physical pressure from experienced defenders Robbie Tarrant and Scott Thompson, occasionally spilling over the boundary into scuffles.

Swans coach John Longmire praised the effort of his youngsters.

"It was one of the really good wins, that I can remember, it was just a fantastic effort," Longmire said.

"We had 18 players who hadn't played 100 games out there tonight, so it was just a good effort by the blokes that had the experience, and the younger boys coming through.

"We're really confident in that younger group, and they're able to withstand a hot game, at a ground that the opposition had a lot of experience at, and have a good record at.

"You lose some of your senior players that we had, it's a lot of experience, and we're able to still turn up and play like and scrap to the end and get some reward for it.

"To be able to win that one, and another like it last week, we still didn't get everything right, but the young boys had a real crack, and the blokes that had played a bit of footy lead from the front."

Having trailed by nine points at quarter time, the Swans swarmed all over the Kangaroos in the second quarter, booting 7.2 from 14 entries, including two special efforts from Tom Papley, who finished the night with 4 goals.

Papley's first was a magnificent shot from outside 50, while his second of the quarter, a juggling effort as he flirted the boundary, before he toe-poked from point-blank range, was the one that really sparked the Swans.

At one point, the Swans kicked 6 consecutive goals, to take a 23-point half-time lead, that was built on the back of wins in clearances (21-13), tackles (46-35) and contested possessions (87-74).

When Papley booted his third of the match barely a minute into the third quarter, and Oliver Florent kicked his first of the match half-way through the third quarter, the Swans opened up a 31-point margin, their biggest of the match.

Shaun Higgins, so brilliantly held by Ryan Clarke in the first half (6 disposals), finally broke the shackles.

When Tom Papley booted his fourth goal early in the last quarter, equalling his career-high for goals in a single match, the Swans looked out of touch, having kicked 10.6 to 3.6 after quarter time.

Quick goals to Jy Simpkin and defender Robbie Tarrant, on the back of North Melbourne dominating the clearances and contested possessions in the last quarter, brought them within 15 points of an unlikely win.

Four behinds in a row, two from Simpkin, including a dribble-attempt from 15 metres out, were all spurned chances, as the Swans desperately held on for a well-earned win.


The Swans return to the SCG, taking on one of the Premiership favourites in Collingwood, who sit second on the ladder with 7 wins.

SYDNEY 1.4 8.6  10.10  11.11 (77)
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.1  5.3  6.7  10.12 (72)


Captain Josh Kennedy was a late omission before the final list lodgement 90 minutes before the match with a quad complaint, while midfielder Zak Jones injured his hamstring early in the second quarter, and Isaac Heeney underwent a concussion test for a collision late in the third quarter, but returned to the field.




SYDNEY: Papley (4), Florent (2), Blakey, McCartin, Heeney, Lloyd, Dawson
NORTH MELBOURNE: Turner (2), Brown, Wood, Cunnington, Larkey, Zurhaar, Simpkin, Tarrant, Polec


SYDNEY: Hewett, Parker, Dawson, Papley, Lloyd, Heeney
NORTH MELBOURNE: Ziebell, Anderson, Tarrant, Macmillan, Simpkin

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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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