In one of the upsets of the season, the youthful Sydney Swans obliterated the lethargic Richmond Tigers on Saturday afternoon at the MCG.
In a performance that already has commentators, media pundits and journalists drooling at the prospect of being able to wax lyrical, let alone sing the Swans' praises, it was less than 12 months ago that Richmond coach Damien Hardwick famously claimed that Sydney had seventy-five thousand people in their defensive 50.
A reversal in conditions and a return to the 'G gave the Swans every opportunity to exact revenge on Richmond for Hardwick's comments, and they still remain the only team to beat them during a day match in their premiership run.
Despite the emphatic win and the way the Swans played, slicing their opponents up at will and denying them their opportunities to play pressure football, Sydney Swans coach John Longmire was firmly trying to slam shut a lid on a pot that was already rolling down the hill.
"I just look at the next week and always have. It's the reality of the game and it's just what the game is. I've been in the game a long time and you acknowledge the aspects we got right, and we got a lot right today, which was terrific and we're pleased with what we see and then we'll get on with it," Longmire said.
"That's also the exciting thing about it [that] 'OK, boys, you get reinforcement for what you do and you work hard and that's what happens, and that's what makes them feel good after a game."
Longmire's Richmond counterpart Damien Hardwick was effusive with his praise, declaring Sydney's style as Richmond-like.
"Credit where credit's due, I thought they were simply outstanding," Hardwick said post-game.
"To be honest, the score flattered us I reckon. I felt like it was a 10-goal loss. I thought they killed us in every facet of the game – offensively, defensively, contest. They were just simply brilliant."
"We're disappointed in our performance, but sometimes you meet a side that's going so well and they teach a few lessons which they did today. Credit to John (Longmire) and his side, they're playing a wonderful brand of footy."
"I just thought they played a really good brand of footy: attacking, they were hard to defend, they moved the ball incredibly well and some of their stuff looked Richmond-like if that makes sense."
"Their forward-half turnover game was very strong, they made us make some mistakes we don't normally make and that's what good sides do, they punish you. They're in a really good spot at the moment."
After a shock win against the Lions in Round 1, and a dominant performance against Adelaide last week at the SCG, the baby-faced Swans faced their first season-validation match against the reigning premiers, and they didn't disappoint.
A stunning 8-goal run in the second quarter propelled the Swans to a 17.15 (117) to 10.12 (72) thumping of the reigning premiers, that will be keeping opposition coaches up at night, in an outclassing that was simply stunning to watch and harder to believe.
An hour of dominance saw the Swans jump out to a 40-point halftime lead over the Tigers, who were uncharacteristically lackadaisical, unorganised, out-hustled and completely outworked and dominated by the Swans at the MCG.
The highlights were everywhere; Jordan Dawson (27 disposals) was superbly bringing the ball out of defence, Chad Warner (20 disposals, two goals) was a force, Oliver Florent (29 disposals, 4 clearances) revelled in the space, Errol Gulden (18 disposals, 6 inside 50's) and Logan McDonald (two goals) ran amuck, while Sam Wicks (21 disposals, 3 goals, 13 marks) tore shreds from the Richmond defence.
It has been the mix of Sydney's stunning youth and polished professionals that have the Swans sitting second on the ladder with a 3-0 start for the first time since 2016.
Swans co-captains Josh Kennedy (27 disposals, 7 clearances) and Luke Parker (29 disposals, 1 goal) smashed the highly rated Richmond midfield, along with Callum Mills (31 disposals, 8 clearances) and ruck-recruit Tom Hickey (2 goals, 15 disposals, 3 intercept marks, 15 hit-outs), who has been a star in the red and white.
Richmond supporters will struggle to recall a performance as poor as what was dished up on Saturday afternoon. Gun midfielder Dustin Martin was tag-teamed by Swans' quartet Josh Kennedy, Oliver Florent, Luke Parker and the criminally underrated George Hewett, with Hewett taking Martin when he drifted forward. Such was Hewett's impact, Martin wasn't even ranked in the top 20 on the ground, and had just 4 disposals inside forward 50.
The clinical Swans outfit tore shreds from the Tigers' hard-to-penetrate defence, who seemingly picked off targets at will, recording an astonishing 15 marks inside 50, to Richmond's 10, while Sam Wicks appeared to play without an opponent, making scoring easy for the Swans.
Swans defender subdued Richmond's gun forward Jack Riewoldt, while Shai Bolton played a match he'd rather forget, and substitute Daniel Rioli had little impact on the game after subbing in for Dion Prestia (hamstring) in the first quarter.
The signs were there early for the Swans that an upset was brewing. Richmond peppered the scoreboard early but could only muster two behinds, while Sydney wasted many opportunities and deserved more than their 8-point lead at quarter time. Sydney's precise ball movement in the second half of the quarter parted the Tigers' defence as if it was the Red Sea.
Clearly buoyed by their start, emerging midfielder Chad Warner booted his first goal for the match two minutes in the second quarter from terrific pressure, already recording 7-tackles-to-0 in their forward half, while Papley booted his second goal minutes later.
Nick Blakey's almost chance would have been a contender for goal of the year had he stuck it between the big sticks, bursting out of defence with a lung-busting run through the middle of the ground, before unloading just inside 50.
Richmond threatened to break back into the game with two goals in a minute to Jack Riewoldt and Jason Castagna - the latter a Dustin Martin special from the centre square bounce, reducing the margin to 9-points.
Goals to Hayden McLean and Sam Wicks pushed the margin back out to 3-goals, while a second in the quarter to Jason Castagna looked to settle things for the Tigers, trailing by 16-points with 3 minutes left in the quarter.
2-goals in a minute to Isaac Heeney, and an absolute ripper from the centre square by Chad Warner - his second on the run in two games, pushed the margin back out to 29-points.
Logan McDonald capitalised on superb forward-half pressure by the Swans to kick his first goal at the MCG.
While Sam Wicks compounded Richmond's misery at the half-time break and booted his second goal of the match after an unforgivable free kick on the siren. The Swans smashed Richmond at their own game, recording 13 inside 50's to the Tiger's 9 from defensive half-chains, outscoring them 4.3 (27) to 2.2 (14). More telling, despite recording five more intercept possessions in the first half, the Swans outscored the Tigers 7.8 (50) to 1.5 (11).
Richmond's credentials always meant a stunning comeback was possible, having recently overturned a 30-point deficit against the Blues in the first round.
It was a fleeting thought, as the third quarter picked up where the first-half left off, the Swans converting from a set-shot after a 50-metre penalty before Richmond answered back through Lynch, breaking free of Swans' defender Tom McCartin shackles.
Tom Hickey booted his second of the match, and the sides went tit-for-tat until Isaac Heeney booted the goal of the game from the pocket, and Tom Papley kicked his third goal to extend the lead to 57-points.
A late collision between Kamdyn McIntosh and Dane Rampe soured Richmond's mood even more, with the stricken defender assisted from the ground.
On a 30-degree April day, the only thing better than Melbourne's weather was Sydney's performance.
Eight months ago Damien Hardwick decried Sydney's defensive game-style in their wet clash at the Gabba as "farcical" and "horrible", but Saturday's performance was anything but, with the Swans maintaining a 121-point average scoreline from their first three games.
Sydney's dominance on turnover this year has been no fluke, recording an astonishing 13.10 (88) to 3.10 (28) points from intercept possessions, clearly establishing them as the number 1 ranked side, and averaging almost 80-points per game.
Young forward Sam Wicks - unheralded before the game - may have been best known for his boot incident last year with Isaac Quaynor, and Richmond didn't seem to know much about him either, affording him with space in the forward line, but Wicks showed he's a real talent inside forward 50.
With pace to burn, a brutish tackling style, and a steady set-shot, he booted two goals in the second quarter and another in the third quarter, finishing with 13 marks - 12 uncontested, in a performance that's sure to garner more attention from here.
With so much young talent coming through the Sydney side, the Swans look set to capture a third-straight NAB AFL Rising Star nomination, after Errol Gulden in Round 1 and Braeden Campbell in Round 2, and now with Chad Warner, who will be in the mix this week. He was sublime in his fifth match, and was unlucky to miss out last week, but backed up his performance with another brutish effort, destroying Shai Bolton in the midfield.
The West Australian looks a star in the making, his two-goals up to half-time setting the trend for Sydney's midfield dominance, while fellow WA product Logan McDonald has turned heads with his performances.
The Swans return to the SCG and welcome back rested superstar Lance Franklin for the Round 4 clash against the Bombers, who're coming off a 75-point win against a hapless St Kilda. Richmond travels to Adelaide to take on fellow flag favourites Port Adelaide without Kamdyn McIntosh, who's coming off a 37-point loss to the Eagles in a dour performance.
SYDNEY 2.5.17 10.10.70 15.12.102 17.15 (117)
RICHMOND 1.3.9 4.6.30 7.9.51 10.12 (72)
RICHMOND: McIntosh (concussion), Prestia (hamstring), Cotchin (hamstring)
SYDNEY: Bell (unused)
RICHMOND: Rioli (replaced Prestia)
SYDNEY: Papley 4, Wicks 3, Heeney 2, Hickey 2, McDonald 2, Warner 2, Parker, McLean
RICHMOND: Lynch 3, Castagna 2, Rioli 2, Riewoldt, Edwards, Aarts
SYDNEY: Wicks, Papley, Mills, Parker, Florent, Kennedy, Dawson, Hickey
RICHMOND: Short, Baker, Lambert, Castagna, Lynch
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