Well, it's fair to say that the baby is out with the bathwater, and then some. The idea of flying under the radar and creeping up the ladder was great... while it lasted.
Big thanks to Errol Gulden for his near best afield efforts the last two weeks, 5 goals from Logan McDonald, Chad Warner playing like nothing else matters and Sam Reid finding his mojo again. Didn't you guys get the memo?
I swear there was a pre-season memo sent to the players.... (starts digging through papers on desk...) I found it!
Dear [insert player name here],
The media, the pundits, every predictor and his dog, and even blind freddy haven't given us a hope in hell of doing much this year. Even the kiss of death doesn't want to tip us.
Heck, even some of them had us pegged for bottom 4 again this year. One even had us fighting for the spoon.
Therefore, let's subvert expectations, set the bar so low that when we succeed, they'll be shocked to the core.
Swans coaching department.
All I wanted from this season was the watch the Swans younger players make a solid, if not unspectacular start to AFL life, prove that they can play the level and watch the elder statesman transition into mentoring and coaching roles. I can imagine that a lot of people had similar expectations. Dreams of good performances, close losses to decent teams, and maybe challenging in that 10-12 ladder position range.
The pre-season wasn't anything special, losing both games to the Giants. Heck, we weren't good in the 2nd game in the first half, but a 3rd quarter explosion put us in position for a win. As always, pre-season performances are not a true indicator of future performance. Yeah, I just ripped off HESTA there, sue me. Actually, please don't HESTA, I'm broke.
The one thing that's been remarkably consistent from pre-season to the first two rounds is that we're a leaky sieve in the opening and closing 10 minutes of a match. We've conceded 13 goals in the that time (5 in the opening stanza, 8 in the last) so far this season, while we've scored just 3 goals. The turnarounds, as phenomenal as they've been, have been crushing the opponents through the second and third quarters, outscoring them 26 goals to 10.
We've turned 50+ leads into 30-odd-point wins. A win is a win, and I'm more than happy to see the 4 points on the board, but it is something that the team needs to work on.
There's aspects to that drop off, be it conditioning or concentration. Whatever it is, I hope it's addressed before too long, because a tight game against a team like St Kilda or Melbourne could go down to the line, and if we're still conceding goals late in the game, we'll never be confident or comfortable that we can run out winners.
Besides the late fades and sluggish starts, the performances of the lesser lights, new recruits and inexperienced players has been something I've never seen. I don't recall 3 debutants ever making such an impact on a side in their first two games, while Jordan Dawson, Tom McCartin and Chad Warner have been bloody good. The old dour Swans are long gone, this crop of players is an exciting group to watch.
The signs of a team in transition have been there since late 2018. One of Longmire's biggest criticisms was his inflexibility, his dedication to a style of play that was clearly falling behind the times. Who would have thought that the most recent rule changes would have benefitted the Swans the most, I certainly didn't. I thought it would work in our favour, I just didn't expect this.
I suspect the recruitment of Don Pyke has more to do with the way that we're playing, than the man on the mark rule change.
Last year was a very good season for a team finishing in the bottom 4. We competed well in the majority of matches, almost beat Geelong in the final round - a win that would have pushed them out of the top 4 and meant that Richmond would have likely played Brisbane in the Grand Final. I expected more of the same this year, some good performances, players growing in confidence, more from Stephens and finally Gould getting a run.
Instead, Stephens can't even get close, McInerney's picked right up where he left off, Chad Warner has just exploded out of the blocks, while Isaac Heeney looks like a bonafide forward 50 star. We're banging in goals from all over the place, scored 120 points in consecutive weeks for the first time since 2017, and registering ridiculous inside 50 stats.
For so long Tom Papley was our focal point in attack, but now I can barely remember a time the players even kicked it to him inside forward 50. He's still contributing strongly in other areas of the field, but he no longer has to do it all himself. Errol Gulden is having an stonking start to his career. He's set the bar so bloody high that it can only go down from here.
I didn't expect much, but I honestly fear a win on the weekend against Richmond, because every man and his dog will be picking Swans to finish top 4. Yada yada Fox Sports blah blah, something about a team from the 8 always making the top 4 every season for the last 15 years. If it's us, great, but I fear the pressure and expectations that will come with it.
I'm chuffed either way, the way the boys are playing is far beyond my wildest imagination and for the first time in the last two years, I'm not just cheering the Swans because they did something OK on the field, I'm up and about and screaming my head off at the TV and going purple in the face.
Damn it feels good again!
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