The Sydney Swans will watch the rest of Round 23 intently as they wait for the Tetris pieces that will shape their finals destiny to fall into place.
The Swans took care of their end of the bargain at Marvel Stadium on Saturday afternoon, exacting ruthless revenge on the floundering Gold Coast Suns in an 87-point demolition job.
Up to five other games can still shape where the Swans finish and who they play.
With Brisbane favoured to defeat West Coast Saturday afternoon and GWS expected to topple Carlton on Saturday night, the most likely scenario sets up a mouth-watering all-Sydney elimination final between the Swans and the Giants.
Shame is, due to Covid-19 lockdowns, it is unlikely to be played in Sydney, with the AFL understood to be considering three venues – Adelaide, Brisbane and Tasmania – for its first-week finals clashes. If not GWS, the Swans could instead face an improved Essendon, the Eagles or even Fremantle, depending on results.
Sydney coach John Longmire had some payback on his mind before the match: “These guys have got us a couple of times”, the Suns having won three of their previous four meetings, in Round 6 inflicting the Swans’ heaviest loss of the season.
But, with the spectre of finals looming, the Swans left nothing to chance, putting the pedal to the metal from the first bounce in a domineering performance that will only serve to heap more pressure on embattled Suns coach Stuart Dew.
It was hard to find a Swan who lowered their colours as the Suns had no answers for superstar forward Lance Franklin, while Isaac Heeney was at his creative best, Jake Lloyd provided rebound, run and carry and Jordan Dawson continued his impressive development. Longmire would be particularly pleased with Justin McInerney’s work in defence, standing tall with Nick Blakey gone for the season.
For the Suns, Touk Miller registered a 16th consecutive match of 30 or more disposals – an AFL record – while young gun Noah Anderson tried to lift his side with 15 second-quarter touches. Ben King’s set shot from the boundary in the third quarter – one of his four goals – underlined why the Suns must do everything possible to ensure he remains on the Gold Coast.
A finals venue and opponent isn’t the only thing Sydney will be sweating on: Callum Mills has had ongoing drama with his Achilles and he looked proppy for most of the match, requiring treatment on the sideline early before he was subbed out in the third quarter with what appeared to be a toe or foot complaint. He still had 18 disposals and booted a goal.
After finishing 15th in 2019 and 16th in 2020, Longmire and the Swans have produced one of the more dramatic turnarounds in recent memory, with a top-six finish sealed.
Jake Lloyd was Sydney’s most prolific user of the footy on Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
In awe of Buddy
The Swans could find themselves in Tassie for an elimination final next week and that might be music to the ears of Lance Franklin.
Big Bud’s had some memorable days down south, including the famous “thir-teen, THIR-TEEN”! With 986 career goals before the Suns game, there was an early sniff that the legendary Swan might give the 1000 a shake on Saturday afternoon when he wheeled around on his trademark raking left boot and slotted one from outside 50m, just 20 seconds into the match. He still finished with a bag of six.
He was the most dangerous man on the ground all night and there’s a reason Mick McGuane had him in his All Australian team – he makes every other Swan in the forward line stand taller.
It’s a long time ago now, but he did kick eight against the Doggies in the 2008 elimination final. With eight to get for the magical mark, it’d take something special – but not beyond his ability – to get the job done in the first final.
He did achieve one career milestone against the Suns – 700 behinds.
No favours for under fire Dew
If the Suns were playing for coach Stewart Dew, you wouldn’t know it.
With very little incentive – except maybe their coach’s future – the Suns didn’t turn up, conceding six goals to none in the first quarter.
The first goal didn’t come until Josh Corbett converted a free kick at the 10-minute mark of the second quarter and, while the Suns did lift through the middle of the match, the damage was done.
This effort will only intensify the beat of the jungle drums, with Dew’s position becoming more tenuous by the day.
Touk Miller was once again a shining light for the Suns, chalking up more disposals than any other player on the ground. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Nice touch for Harbs
Every Gold Coast Sun wore No. 5 on their warm up top before the match, honouring retiring foundation player Jarrod Harbrow.
The 33-year-old had not worn the Suns’ guernsey since Round 5 – against his former club Western Bulldogs – but, against the Swans, was given a 262nd and final farewell game.
While he took a while to get going, Harbrow will bow at as one of the Suns better players against the Swans with 21 disposals and eight marks. It was sad to see him subbed out with a shoulder injury late.
The Suns also farewelled ruckman Zac Smith, who is the owner of a small piece of club history – he registered its first ever score, a behind against the Blues in 2011.
SYDNEY SWANS 6.4 9.7 13.7 21.10 (130)
GOLD COAST SUNS 0.4 3.8 5.9 6.13 (49)
Swans: Franklin 6 Heeney 3 Papley 3 Wicks 2 McLean 2 Dawson Gulden Hickey Mills Rowbottom
Suns: King 4 Corbett Sexton
MICHAEL RANDALL’S BEST
Swans: Lloyd, Franklin, Dawson, Heeney, Hickey, McInerney, Parker
Suns: Miller, Anderson, King, Ainsworth, Harbrow
MICHAEL RANDALL’S VOTES
3 – J Lloyd (Syd)
2 – L Franklin (Syd)
1 – J Dawson (Syd)
Swans: Mills (foot)
Suns: Harbrow (shoulder)
Umpires: Chris Donlon, Leigh Haussen, Andrew Heffernan
Venue: Marvel Stadium
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