AFL Round 9: Sydney Swans v Essendon
Heath Hocking competes against Jeremy Laidler Photo: Pat Scala
The Swans were exceptional, but won playing a game that is unlikely to be sustained through into September, according to Essendon coach Mark Thompson.
"I thought the team played against the best football we have seen for a long time. The Swans were incredible in the first quarter," Thompson said after Essendon was beaten by 50 points on Friday.
"You wouldn't think a team would play like that in September because you are wounded and tired and it's the end of a long year. Sometimes you can just hit a team in form during these seasons. We were just trying to hang on and get our players to keep playing and they did."
The margin of Essendon's loss masked the fact that most of the damage was done in the seven goal to one first term whilst in the latter stages of the match the team pieced together periods of play that suggested their best form was close.
These periods involved Paddy Ryder being liberated enough by Tom Bellchambers' return to be able to move to the goal square and attack the ball with confidence. The cause and/or effect of this was that after stilted and tangential ball movement the Bombers began taking the sharper way forward.
"Our ball movement at times was letting us down we went at it too wide and Sydney, being a great defensive side, were able to clog up the corridor and make us go wide and we didn't want to do that," Ryder said.
"I think it is better for the team having Tommy Bellchambers out there, it helps Joey Daniher and Paddy Ambrose having Tom out there up forward having another target, that way they don't get the number one defender and it gets us in the game as well.
"If the boys move the ball well enough and get it in quick we are OK.
"The boys started to move the ball a bit better into the forward line and that is where the defenders can be on the back foot a little bit and we caught them off guard and I got on the front foot a bit and took a few marks."
Thompson likewise was unhappy with the ball movement at times: "What they do is take the ball wide and safe and I don't like it and good teams keep on their game and move the ball quickly".
The coach was sure of the significance of Bellchambers' return but was also worried for how long he would last as he was returning from injury. Consequently he took the unusual step of giving the green vest to the struggling Jake Carlisle.
Rather than being a move suggesting he is edging closer to losing a place in the side, Thompson said it was insurance for Bellchambers' fitness.
"Tommy B came back and he is in our best combination; Ryder-Bellchambers are our best two ruckmen forward combination. He kicked 30-something goals last year, he can mark the ball and kick goals," Thompson said.
"We didn't know how long he was going to last and I thought the other danger spot for us was going to be their tall forwards if they got up and going which they did but after half-time I couldn't have taken Hurls off and Hooksy."
Hurley's second-half improvement after being outplayed by Franklin in the first half was something that surprised Thompson, who said he had not seen that sort of response from the key defender before.
"I haven't seen Michael Hurley do that, he just came out and stood up and said no I am not going to accept that and got involved in the game."
Ryder said the scoreline was slightly misleading as after quarter time the side had performed well without reward on the scoreboard.
He said that Essendon was still a contender and it was building its game.
"We feel like we are a top team, I don't think we are in the eight now but we have to play more consistent footy, you can't just be here and there in games and once we get back on track we will be able to take it up to teams like Sydney," he said.