Clash of the big birds guaranteed titanic
FOR reasons that are not all that clear, Sydney has a problem with Adelaide. The Swans have lost eight of the past nine games to the Crows, but there are a couple of riders to that statistic.
One is that Sydney was about to win their previous clash - at the SCG in round six - until a rampant Adam Goodes (pictured) broke down in the last quarter. The Crows won by five points, but Goodes, who had five goals to the last change, sat out most of the final stanza.
Second, those games date back to 2005, when both teams were profoundly different. Sydney will have just four 2005 premiership players - Goodes, Jude Bolton, Ryan O'Keefe and Lewis Roberts-Thomson - in its line-up tomorrow, and a different coach. The Crows, too, have turned over big numbers of personnel and have a different game plan.
The key to the Swans' success: Adam Goodes. Photo: Getty Images
The more relevant games to consider are the round six clash at the SCG - a beauty - and, to a lesser extent, the grinding round 15 match at AAMI Stadium last year, which the Crows won by seven points.
■Adelaide does not have a match-up for Goodes. He burnt the Crows last time when Brenton Sanderson tried to play a smaller defender, Brent Reilly, on him. The Swans cleared out the forward line, bombed it in and Goodes tore it up until he was hurt. Daniel Talia, the 2012 AFL Rising Star, might well be getting one of the toughest jobs in football. The better news for the Crows is that Goodes has not been the same player since he missed six weeks with a hip injury.
■Similarly, Taylor Walker is a concern for Sydney. Walker kicked five goals last time at the SCG and was pivotal to Adelaide's win despite the attention of Ted Richards. You fancy that Richards, a likely All-Australian who has hardly been beaten all year, will have been waiting for the rematch.
■Patrick Dangerfield was enormous in the SCG game and looms as a target for Sydney. John Longmire will want him curbed. Craig Bird, the Swans' best tagger, is not quick enough. That leaves Kieren Jack (the most likely), Jarrad McVeigh (an elite athlete) or O'Keefe, who has had some run-with roles this year. It won't be easy.
■Kurt Tippett's logical marker, Heath Grundy, has been suspended. That means - and Longmire has flagged this - that Roberts-Thomson needs to go back and play on him. Roberts-Thomson is flexible and has played a lot in defence, so it is a logical change. But it does alter the Sydney forward structure, and the Swans had customarily struggled to score against Adelaide.
Sam Reid's return will help, and it might come down to the Canadian Mike Pyke and Shane Mumford to be the second tall target - unless Sydney brings back Mitch Morton, which is possible.
■Sydney has won at AAMI Stadium, in fact three of the past four games it played there, albeit two of those wins were against Port Adelaide. The Swans also won at Subiaco, so size of the ground is not the issue it used to be. But the crowd will be worth three or four goals to Adelaide in a tight game.
■This will be a relentlessly tough game. Adelaide is the No. 1 contested team, according to Champion Data, and Sydney loves a scrap. They both have speed and spread from the contest once it is won. Most likely, the game will be won and lost inside.