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Fear, fear the red and the white

Attack the ball: The Sydney Swans have an attack that matches it with the best.

Attack the ball: The Sydney Swans have an attack that matches it with the best. Photo: John Reid

SYDNEY sits atop the ladder and still most folk don't rate it as a good thing for the premiership.

The Swans will again play finals, in fact for the 14th time in the past 17 seasons, a record no other club can boast. But still, most expect them to be bundled out in the first week or two in September. Why? Because, of their past 13 finals campaigns, there has been only one truly successful one.

The sceptics, however, should realise that under John Longmire we are seeing a different Sydney. A far more attacking one. One that keeps the scoreboard ticking over, yet still maintains a very tight, stingy defence, which is in fact proving to be the best in the AFL.

When the Swans won the flag under Paul Roos in 2005 their average score for and against was 87-75. This year the average score for and against is 104-70. Longmire, in just his second season as head coach, is very much low key but his results are most impressive.

Some keys to the Swans' success in 2012 have been:

SCORING

Last year the Swans were the 11th-highest scoring team. Only three players kicked more than 20 goals. Geelong, last year's premier, had nine players kick more than 20 goals. This year the Swans have developed a spread of goalkickers. They are on track to have at least seven players, led by Lewis Jetta, Sam Reid and Adam Goodes, crack the 20-goal figure.

Not only that, the Swans have become the most accurate team in front of goal with a conversion rate of 63 per cent, and only four teams have kicked more goals. Really good teams have midfielders average a goal a game, and Jude Bolton, Kieren Jack and Josh Kennedy are doing that.

THE SPINE

The current top five teams have the best spines. It's old-fashioned, but true, that you can build a team around quality key position players. The Swans have two key defenders who get the big jobs week in, week out, for the power forwards. Heath Grundy and Ted Richards fly under the radar but they are strong of mind and body, who first and foremost have a defensive mindset. It stands them in good stead. In the centre is Kennedy. He was runner-up in the best and fairest last year and is on track to win the count in 2012.

The two keys up forward are the old Goodes and the young Reid. Goodes was the leading goalkicker last year. He is no longer needed to run all day in the midfield, so now, in the twilight of his career, it's leads, marks and goals that have become the priority.

Closer to goal stands Reid. The 20-year-old is still learning the business but few can contest and hold marks at the angles he launches from.

THE MIDFIELD

Is there a midfield that runs as deep as Sydney? The clearance kings are Kennedy, Jack, Bolton, Ryan O'Keefe and Jarrad McVeigh.

The class putting the ball forward is Jetta, Jack, McVeigh and Dan Hannebery. The run-with, lock-down specialists are Craig Bird, Nick Smith and Luke Parker. The ruck combination of Shane Mumford and Mike Pyke continues to evolve.

They have all bases covered. What all the midfielders have in common though is an insatiable appetite to tackle fiercely and push deep into defence to help their backmen out.

PREDICTABILITY

The Swans are the most settled team in the competition, having more players play every game of the season than any other club.

They have also introduced the least number of debutants. So things don't change much. That means they are very predictable to each other in what they do. Their back six of Grundy, Richards, Rhyce Shaw, Alex Johnston, Marty Mattner and Nick Malceski have played 85 of a possible 90 games between them.

It makes such a difference as they know each other inside out.

HARD FACTS AND GAME STYLE

The Swans average the least amount of marks of all the teams. They don't chip around with short passes to build a high tally of uncontested marks as Hawthorn and Essendon do.

They average more long kicks than anyone and are prepared to kick long to contests in their forward line.

What they are doing is backing themselves with more handball, run and carry especially out of defence.

They like to get the ball into the hands of Shaw, Mattner and Malceski who make 80-metre plays as they dash and kick long into attack zones. But it's the grunt areas where these Swans excel.

They are ranked second for all the important contested possessions, clearances and tackles, and it's Kennedy, Jack and Bolton, who are as tough as nails, leading the way. ''Slingshot'' footy is also a term that applies to Sydney.

The Swans push all their numbers back to defend, which leaves a very open forward line.

They are prepared to kick long into their open front half and back the speed of Jetta, Jack and Ben McGlynn to lead the race to the ball and goal. It's exciting stuff when it comes off.

So ignore the Swans as premiership contenders at your own peril.

They have always been a strong defensive team. Now they have an attack that matches it with the best.

28 comments so far

  • Don't matter ,the pies own this mob so when they meet,it's forgone conclusion...swans are the pies whipping boys.

    Commenter
    One hammer
    Location
    Sth Morang
    Date and time
    July 20, 2012, 7:23AM
    • Unfortunately this arrogant and ignorant response denegrates the good name of the Collingwood Football Club.

      Commenter
      Thinkb2g
      Location
      Chadstone
      Date and time
      July 20, 2012, 9:37AM
    • The Swans are playing a very different game this year to the one the Pies have got on top of the last 10 or more times the two sides have met. It will be a very close contest this year. Too hard to pick at this stage,

      Commenter
      Dunkley fan
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 20, 2012, 7:17PM
  • I always listen to what Robert Walls has to say. He has that rare Australian quality of being down to earth and yet capable of penetrating insights. The Bloods in 2012? How good? How far will they go? Time will only tell however the statistics do point to a very competent and exciting team. If the team lose their heads and start getting arrogant we will fall down. Stay under the radar. Ignore all , Swans!

    Commenter
    Bloodssupportertothedeath
    Date and time
    July 20, 2012, 8:01AM
    • Like in 2005 when he agreed with Andrew Demetriou that the Swans would never win a premiership playing that type of football. Has he ever publicly apologised to Paul Roos for his personal attack on him?

      Commenter
      Ross
      Date and time
      July 20, 2012, 10:28AM
    • This is the 17th team Walls has tipped for a flag this year, next week; GWS! At the end Walls will tell us he got it right. What a mug, jumping on a team on top of the ladder.

      Commenter
      Bill
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 20, 2012, 1:37PM
  • Great Story Mr. Walls, your article unfortunately when refering to their back six overlooked Nicholas Smith who has played 13 games out of 16 in defence this year. Having watched my first Swans game as a 5 year old in 1951 and memories of running around the Lakeside Oval over the ensuring years and collecting autographs more often than not after losing makes you realalize that their efforts since 1996 were well worth the wait. Brett Kirk brought back the old war cry "THE MIGHTY BLOODS" and that would have a number of our past players and champions smiling now, including those no longer with us but looking down.

    Commenter
    Thinkb2g
    Location
    Chadstone
    Date and time
    July 20, 2012, 8:22AM
    • One hammer, your recent record against us is fantastic. However, we run you to within a kick last season, and the Swans are a vastly better team in 2012 than 2011. I feel the Pies game in a few weeks time is the real litmus test. Should be a cracking game and will really show just how good we are. I have no doubt the Swans are potentially good enough, and if we finish top 4 after the tough run home that we have, then we are as good a chance as anyone to win the flag.

      I just hope most media hacks continue to under-rate us - flying under the radar suits this Swans team! Sydney's fans know just how good a team is building up here, don't need too many of the Melbourne based media getting wind of the fact. As I read somewhere the other day, I'll be happy if the media only wakes up to the fact the Swans are a quality team the day after the Bloods lift the Premiership Cup!

      But in reality, I think 2012 may be a year too early, but gee it is exciting watching this team play, and the season this year is so incredibly tight that there is no reason that we can't go all the way,. Carn the Bloods!

      Commenter
      mcs_095
      Location
      Trumper Stand, SCG
      Date and time
      July 20, 2012, 8:57AM
      • The great thing about being under-rated by the media is that it's clear that the opposition form their opinions of us from that too.

        Check out the annual AFL Captains' Poll - despite us playing finals 14 times in 17 years, inevitably in most years' poll only 2 or 3 AFL captains rate us to play finals that year.

        Nearly every year we've proved them wrong, and the following year they clearly convince themselves that the previous year was a mere flash-in-the-pan.

        I love it! Fools!

        Commenter
        rory
        Date and time
        July 21, 2012, 12:46AM
    • As an essendon fan who has been to every victorian game i can comfortably say that Sydney is clearly the most impressive opposition team that we have played against and they were missing Goodes that night.

      They are a wonderfully balanced side and it is hard to spot a weakness. if i had to identify one it would be that they may be a tall short in defence but that is something few teams can effectively exploit and Grundy and Richards are so good at peeling off the cover it up pretty effectively (and they have LRT up their sleeve).

      Have been surprised to see how slow the comp has been to shut jetta down (probably easier said than done). He should be getting a hard tag every week for mine, he is getting too much soft easy ball by sitting 30 meters off packs and he is so important to their transition and so leathal from anything inside 60 you simply can't allow that. Will be interesting to see how how teams approach him over the business end of the season.

      Commenter
      matt
      Date and time
      July 20, 2012, 9:45AM

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