Round Seven preview: so how good are the Sydney Swans?

7 May 2010

Written by: Lawrie Zion

Six rounds in and things are starting to settle down. We’re gradually beginning to figure out where most sides might be placed at the conclusion of round 22. While the majority of the results weren’t as close as what most of us would’ve expected and hoped for, rivalry round certainly lived up to its reputation as a highlight of the AFL calendar.

Five things we learnt from Round 6:

  1. The problem at Hawthorn is far worse than first thought. If you’re a Hawthorn supporter, look away now. Six rounds in and the Hawks have just one win to their name, and that was in the first round. Let’s not forget, this is a side that won a premiership as recently as 2008. What is the problem? The attitude of certain players. I was at the Hawthorn-Essendon game last Saturday night and watched Jarryd Roughead labour around the forward line as if he did not want to be there. Full credit to Essendon, though, who played great football when it mattered most. But Hawthorn only gathered 305 possessions for an entire game -Geelong average over 450. They are a much better side than they looked last weekend and will need to bounce back strongly against West Coast this weekend if they want to gain any respect from the football public.
  2. Ross Lyon’s coaching tactics might end up sending us all to sleep. Last Friday night’s game between StKilda and the Western Bulldogs was one of the worst games of footy I have ever been to. And if it wasn’t for the close result, I probably would’ve walked out of Etihad Stadium. In the end, St.Kilda came from the clouds to win by three points in a game that has been heavily criticised for the atrocious tactics and poor skills. Lyon chose to ‘flood’ his own backline in order to stop Barry Hall from kicking a bag of goals, forcing the Bulldogs to chip it around the midfield until they found an open target. Boring stuff. Between the two sides, just 13 goals were kicked for the entire match. Geelong had already kicked 13 goals themselves by half time against Richmond. Yes, a win is a win and in the end it doesn’t matter how you get the four points. But if you want to see a fast and free flowing game of football this year, I wouldn’t recommend going to a match that features St.Kilda.
  3. Collingwood are a top four side. If you didn’t know that already, then it was certainly confirmed last Sunday against Carlton at the MCG. Despite Carlton gathering way more of the footy and Chris Judd easily being the best man on the ground, the Magpies were able to win easily by 53 points. That is the sign of a very good football team. Their midfield of Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury, Sharrod Wellingham and Luke Ball all contributed well, and they have found a decent key forward in Chris Dawes who kicked 3.4 from 17 touches and 10 marks. The Magpies will be tough to beat this year and should finish high on the ladder.
  4. Daniel Bradshaw could be the recruit of the year. The star full-forward booted six goals and had the last laugh against his former club in Brisbane on Saturday night as the Swans won comfortably by 20 points. Bradshaw was basically pushed aside by the Lions at the end of last season and was in limbo for a while. But since the Swans gave him a second chance, he has thrived, booting 23 goals from six games, including 16 in the last three weeks. Bradshaw maybe 31-years old, but he can most definitely still play the game.
  5. Daniel Wells has found some consistency. Over the past five years, the classy North Melbourne midfielder would have to be one of the most scrutinised players by the media. Wells was touted as the next superstar of the game when he came to the club as a number two draft pick back in 2003. He had never arrived as an AFL player, until now. Wells’ last month of football has been outstanding, averaging 24 possessions and having a significant impact on the game. If his wonderful form continues, the Kangaroos could find themselves inside the eight come the finals..

What to look forward to in Round 7:

–          This weekend is when the AFL world will find out how good Sydney is. To the surprise of many, the Swans are sitting on top of the ladder with just one loss for the season so far. But they face their biggest challenge to date when they venture down to Skilled Stadium to take on Geelong on Sunday. The Cats annihilated a helpless Richmond side last week to the tune of 108 points, with forwards Cameron Mooney, Steve Johnson and James Podsiadly kicking 15 goals between them. Mentally, Sydney can match it with Geelong. But what will  hurt the Swans the most will be the return of stars Gary Ablett and Matthew Scarlett from injury. The stipulation is simple. If the Swans win, everyone will think they are the next big thing and that the Geelong dynasty is done and dusted. If the Cats win, they will still be recognised as the best team in the competition and Sydney will still have a bit of work ahead of them. On paper, Geelong should win, but don’t be surprised to see a close margin at the end of the match.

–          Tonight is an important night on the AFL calendar as Melbourne host the Western Bulldogs in the ‘Field of Women’ match. Almost 14,000 people are expected to make their way onto the hallowed turf of the MCG to form the shape of a female in an effort to remind society of the dangers of breast cancer. It is a magnificent initiative by both the AFL and the Breast Cancer Network of Australia. If you can’t get along to the game to witness it, make sure you tune in to channel seven tonight because it is spine tingling stuff. In terms of the football match, the Western Bulldogs should be too strong for the Demons.

–          Over the past few years, the Dockers have been criticised for not being able to win games away from their home ground of Subiaco Oval. They have a wonderful opportunity to prove those critics wrong this Saturday night when they travel to the Gabba to face the Brisbane Lions. While most of the attention will be on the big men from both teams (Fremantle- Aaron Sandilands and Matthew Pavlich, Brisbane- Jonathon Brown and Brendan Fevola), the game will be won in the midfield. The class and experience of Simon Black and Luke Power will be a telling factor and expect massive games from both of those two gentlemen. Brisbane should win, but again, don’t be surprised if this game is close from start to finish.

–          The AFL will once again experiment with Monday Night Football this round when St.Kilda and Carlton clash at Etihad Stadium. From a television perspective, Monday Night Football fits in well and it would certainly gain a lot of viewers. However the player’s don’t seem too keen on the idea because it is normally a short turnaround to the next weekend. What should the AFL do? Include Monday Night Football in the fixture, but don’t overload players and fans with it too much. The Saints will be full of confidence after last week’s win and should beat the Blues.

–          Who would’ve thought that after six rounds of football that the Adelaide Crows would be winless? They have undoubtedly been the most disappointing team of the season so far. For the talent they have on that list, they should be performing much better and alarm bells are certainly ringing for Neil Craig at the moment. They come up against Richmond this weekend, a side that is currently playing nowhere near AFL standard. If the Crows don’t pull this one off against the Tigers on Sunday at AAMI Stadium, Craig’s job will be under serious scrutiny and Adelaide could find themselves a new coach before the season ends.

Ben’s Tip Tally: 29 from 48

Ben’s Tips for Round 7:

Western Bulldogs to beat Melbourne

Essendon to beat Port Adelaide

West Coast to beat Hawthorn

Collingwood to beat North Melbourne

Brisbane to beat Fremantle

Geelong to beat Sydney

Adelaide to beat Richmond

St.Kilda to beat Carlton

Ben Waterworth is a regular contributor to upstart and upcast and you can read more of his work at his blog, A Short Sport Thought.