Swans fans - is there anything better than smashing the West Coast Eagles?
And frankly, is there anything more entertaining on a Sunday than watching Lance Franklin at his scintillating best against a hapless Eagles defence, with a willing-and-able assistant in Tom Papley plumbing the forward line and flushing out five goals of his own?
And finally, how can you NOT love a team that has a raft of young players, only one rotation left on the bench in the second half and is ranked 15th in 2019, and still beats the reigning premiers 18.8 (116) to 10.11 (71)?
Answer? You can’t. The Sydney Swans produced their best performance of the season to down West Coast by 45 points - continuing the Eagles’ 20-year losing streak at the SCG.
It was a win that gave Swans fans lacking in faith and hope a renewed zest for the future and a glimpse of what some of these developing players could bring to a fully functioning Sydney unit in years to come.
The most remarkable aspects of this comprehensive defeat were the number of injuries Sydney endured and their resilience in the face of a desperately bare interchange bench after halftime.
Young defender Colin O’Riordan suffered a concussion from a Willie Rioli sling tackle, key defender Jarrad McVeigh went down with a hamstring injury and another defender Jackson Thurlow was on the end of a big Nathan Vardy bump.
Despite having only one rotation for the entire second half, Sydney kept the full-ground pressure on the Eagles and shelved some pre-game positions and match-ups to cover the holes.
Forward James Rose (1 goal, 15 disposals), playing his first AFL-level game in season 2019, kicked a goal in the first quarter but slotted into the backline admirably to cover some of the gaping holes left by his injured teammates.
It must be said that while Franklin and Papley’s superlative efforts in the forward line headlined this win, it was the collective defensive performance to limit the West Coast’s Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling, Liam Ryan and Willie Rioli.
2018 club champion Jake LLoyd, Dane Rampe (32 disposals, 12 marks) in his 150th game, Callum Mills (25 disposals), Aliir Aliir (13 intercept possessions, 8 marks), the consistent George Hewett (29 disposals, 7 clearances), Luke Parker (30 disposals, 1 goal) and Isaac Heeney (28 disposals, 4 tackles) all played key roles in the Swans’ victory.
Lloyd had 42 disposals in a quality display while unheralded recruit Ryan Clarke chipped in with seven tackles and 22 disposals at an eye-popping 95% efficiency.
The Swans were flying high from the first whistle, tackling hard and providing plenty of run and carry through the middle of the ground, giving their long-suffering forwards marks on the lead and genuine one-on-one contests.
Papley (27 disposals, 5 goals) and Franklin (5 goals) didn’t need much encouragement - they hammered 10 goals between them, including some sublime set shots from the sidelines.
Franklin’s complete disregard for ineffective defenders Jeremy McGovern and Will Schofield culminated with an extraordinary drop punt from an acute angle after the final siren, that saw the superstar forward engulfed by his jubilant teammates.
There was similar joy in the coaches’ box.
"To do what we did today with five or six regular players out of the senior team to start with, including three or four real key midfielders, and to not have any rotations really except for one person on the bench for the second half, was just fantastic," head coach John Longmire said.
"We were down Jones, Kennedy and Cunningham going into the game, and we had young midfielders like Hewett and Florent, and a couple others who didn't rotate at all in the second half - Clarke I don't think came off in two and a half quarters.
"To play this game the way it is, it's a tough game, and to be able to run it out like that is fantastic.
"You couldn't use a runner, you've got three on the bench that can't come back on, and you've got the one, and you're trying to do things, the players sorted it out really well."
Prior to the game, much had been made of West Coast’s key outs - captain Shannon Hurn and gun midfielder Elliot Yeo.
But it was lowly Sydney’s energy and clever possession game which denied the Eagles their free-flowing run and control.
They also made the most of their inside 50’s, scoring almost every time they entered the attacking zone.
And the Swans showed that even with three men down for half a game, it was not going to stop them scoring - or fighting - for some red and white pride in front of 36,000 delighted supporters, during a testing AFL season.
For West Coast, who generally lacked inspiration and polish, Dom Sheed (26 disposals) and Andrew Gaff (28 disposals) tried hard, while Josh Kennedy kicked three goals and Lewis Jetta was solid in defence.
Now 4-8, the Swans enter their bye weekend with some relief and the opportunity to rest up, before a Friday night encounter with another traditional foe, Hawthorn, on 21 June.
SYDNEY 4.1 9.6 14.7 18.8 (116)
WEST COAST 3.2 6.3 7.8 10.11 (71)
Defender Colin O'Riordan suffered a concussion from a Willie Rioli sling tackle early in the second quarter, and was assisted from the ground. Backman Jackson Thurlow received a huge hit from Eagles ruckman Nathan Vardy as he was disposing the ball not long after O'Riordan was concussed. He returned to the field in the third quarter, but then left the field and didn't return with a suspected concussion. Fellow defender Aliir Aliir had his thumb restrapped in the third quarter, while Jarrad McVeigh left the field in the third quarter with a hamstring strain.
SYDNEY: Papley (5), Franklin (5), Reid (3), McCartin, Rose, Hewett, Sinclair, Parker
WEST COAST: Kennedy (3), Ryan (2), Rioli (2), McGovern, Darling, Waterman
SYDNEY: Papley, Hewett, Parker, Franklin, Aliir, Rampe, Heeney
WEST COAST: Shuey, Kennedy, Ryan, Sheed, Redden
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