SYDNEY 3.6 8.8 14.11 18.15 (123) BRISBANE LIONS 2.0 3.5 5.6 6.8 (44)
GOALS Sydney: Goodes 3, K Jack 2, Kennedy 2, Parker 2, B Jack 2, Derickx, Cunningham, Reid, McVeigh, Shaw, Parker, Jetta. Brisbane Lions: Paparone 2, Lester, Rockliff, Green, Cutler.
BEST Sydney: Kennedy, McVeigh, Hannebery, Shaw, Parker. Brisbane Lions: Rockliff, Paparone, Mayes, Adcock, Aish.
INJURIES Brisbane Lions: Brown (general soreness) replaced in selected side by Golby. Sydney: Pyke (hamstring).
UMPIRES Fleer, Stevic, Stephens.
CROWD 17,957 at The Gabba.
The Brisbane Lions went into Saturday night's clash against Sydney with five players boasting less than 10 games, a few more with less than 25, and many more yet to break the 50 barrier.
The Lions are a team being forced to look to the long term by crippling injuries. Justin Leppitsch is making some tough calls, too, playing the likes of Ryan Lester ahead of the experienced Brent Moloney.
Moloney certainly hits hard in the clinches, but Leppitsch is probably sending a message, too. Why else would you leave a seasoned campaigner and solid body out of such a raw team already crippled by injury?
Jonathan Brown was left out, too, rested after the Lions’ trip across the Tasman, leaving usual full-back Daniel Merrett and another former defender, Luke McGuane, to start the game in attack.
The Swans chose to rest their spearhead, too, Lance Franklin’s knee being given extra time to recover before he faces his old side Hawthorn in six days’ time. All told, it is harsh, but not entirely unfair, to describe this contest as dead on arrival.
Of course, the Swans didn’t need Buddy (or Kurt Tippett) to prevail against such callow opposition. They still had plenty of options to kick to in their own attacking half – midway through the match, they had 12 marks within 50 metres of goal to just two.
Sometimes that came down to strength, such as Tom Derickx’s shrugging off of young Darcy Gardiner, or Adam Goodes holding out Jed Adcock and Joel Patfull. More often it came down to the Swans finding gaps within a disorganised Lions’ defence, or capitalising on simple turnovers upfield.
The Lions hit the scoreboard first via Ryan Lester, the lucky beneficiary of a Swans error at half-back, and Tom Rockliff, who won a free kick in front of goal. You can’t win matches that way, a fact Rockliff seemed to quietly acknowledge with not much more than a slight shake of his head after kicking truly.
Lively small forward Josh Green was the only other Lion to hit the scoreboard in the first half, with a nice running shot after a clever intercept at half-back by Sam Mayes.
The Swans answered this momentary display of impudence with four goals late in the second term to kill the contest. The worst moment for the Lions came when Merrett, sent back to his defensive post, took a good grab close to the last line, only to pop the ball up obligingly for Jarrad McVeigh to mark and goal.
It was a horrible error from an experienced player in a line-up so short of leaders. By the end of the third quarter the Swans were all but queuing up; at one point Brandon Jack fumbled a handball that could have been delivered to two other team-mates, only to win the free kick for a shove in the back.
Adam Goodes, in his first full match since round 13 last year, made an encouraging return with three goals, and Daniel Hannebery, whose form on and off-field has been much debated, picked up 31 possessions.
But the Swans hadn’t had to do much but go through the motions after half-time, and if it’s been difficult to get a read on their form so far this season you wouldn’t be much the wiser after this game.