For the last two years the Sydney Swans have been the best team in the NEAFL eastern conference, but stumbled at the final hurdle to Canberra sides with more to play for.
But that wasn’t the case with this year’s edition of the Swans reserves, many of who were desperate to impress senior coach John Longmire in their 15.11 (101) to 6.13 (49) final victory over Belconnen at Kippax Oval on Sunday.
Swans half-back Tony Armstrong won the Alex Jesaulenko Medal for his run and pin-point passing out of a miserly Sydney defence.
But for the final margin, that medal would have been hanging around the neck of Magpies wingman Simon Curtis who coach Matthew Lokan said ‘‘kept us in the game’’ with the countless possessions he picked up all over the ground.
With the Swans facing injury and suspension concerns for the AFL preliminary final against Fremantle in Perth next weekend, several players put their hand up for senior selection in an impressive display.
Key position player Lewis Roberts-Thomson (two goals) got through his first game since April unscathed, while Gary Rohan was workmanlike.
Swans captain Jed Lamb provided plenty of drive out of the middle, while Armstrong was silky across half-back.
Defenders Alex Brown and Xavier Richards were both keys in keeping a normally potent Belconnen forward line quiet.
‘‘I think most of the guys played pretty well today and most of the guys who are in contention for senior football did what the senior coach expected them to do,’’ Swans development coach Jared Crouch said.
‘‘There will be a big group going to Perth and I guess we wait on the injuries to see if those opportunities arise, but they certainly haven’t done themselves any harm.’’
The Swans’ defence was where they won the game.
Whenever the Magpies went forward they struggled to find a free player, with small forward Shane Harris (four) the only real threat for Belconnen.
The 2012 Mulrooney Medallist looked dangerous whenever he found an inch of space and kicked one of the goals of the year to bring the Magpies within four points at quarter-time, swooping on a loose ball deep in the pocket before brilliantly snapping over his shoulder.
Magpies centre half-forward Andrew Dess (two) was the only other Belconnen goal-scorer, but he was often forced up the ground to get his kicks.
Once the Swans had smothered the Magpies’ forward line, they spread in the blink of an eye and were able to find open targets in their forward line.
Tim Membrey (three) used his strength and agility to perfection as one of 12 goal-kickers for the Swans.
Lokan admitted they were outclassed by the Swans, but was confident Belconnen could continue their improvement – rising from last in 2011.
‘‘Simon was fantastic, we probably got enough out of him on the wing in the first half, but we had to try and change things up and threw him in the midfield and I thought he was great,’’ Lokan said of Curtis.
‘‘He kept us in the game.’’
The Magpies lost defender Cameron Campbell with a suspected broken arm in the first quarter, while Josh Hegarty (cheekbone) and Andrew Browning (concussion) also picked up injuries.
The Swans will travel to Brisbane to play the Lions’ reserves in the NEAFL grand final at Aspley on Saturday at 12.30pm.
SYDNEY SWANS 3.1 7.6 10.8 15.11 (101)
BELCONNEN 2.3 3.5 4.10 6.13 (49)
Goals: Sydney Swans: T Membrey 3, L Roberts-Thomson 2, S Naismith 1, T Head 1, J Lloyd 1, M Vicic 1, G Rohan 1, J Hiscox 1, B Jack 1, T Armstrong 1, D Robinson 1, D Towers 1. Belconnen: S Harris 4, A Dess 2. Best: Sydney Swans: T Armstrong, J Lamb, J Lockyer, J Lloyd, D Towers, S Wray. Belconnen: S Curtis, A Bennett, J Harper, C Jansen, N Collins, R Turnbull.