Sydney have continued their unlikely yet remarkable charge towards the top four with a superb 46-point win over Geelong at Simonds Stadium on Friday night.
The Swans, who began the year with six losses, set up the victory with seven goals to two in the first quarter. Geelong couldn’t recover on a night where their sloppiness and inability to convert chances hurt them dearly.
Cats captain Joel Selwood finished the game on the bench after he injured his ankle late in the second quarter. He returned to the field but had minimal impact as he visibly struggled with the injury before going off for good early in the final term.
Geelong, already missing star Patrick Dangerfield through suspension, were outsmarted by the Swans on their home deck in what was their first loss at Simonds Stadium since the Swans beat them there in round 16, 2016.
The Swans are making a habit of winning in Geelong. Including this win, the Swans have won three games at the ground since 2008. All other visiting teams have won a combined four.
The Swans were without their midfield dynamo Josh Kennedy, but their efficient performance, which was spiked with moments of brilliance from Lance Franklin (although otherwise quiet), Isaac Heeney and Luke Parker, made up for the loss of their captain.
Despite grinding to stay in the contest in the middle two quarters, Geelong capitulated in the final quarter with the Swans opening up a 37-point margin early on in the term in bizarre circumstances.
After Dan Hannebery kicked the first goal of the final term, Cat Mitch Duncan punched Tom Papley in the gut. Papley missed the set shot from the resulting free kick but before he kicked, the umpire blew his whistle for a 50-metre penalty and so he kicked an easy goal with his second chance. That effectively ended the game as a contest and kept Sydney’s faint top-four hopes alive. As for Geelong, who play Richmond (Simonds Stadium), Collingwood (MCG) and Greater Western Sydney (Simonds Stadium) to end the year, the loss means their top-four spot isn’t set in stone.
Geelong started the game the better side and dominated the possession and clearance count early, a tone which continued through the evening despite their loss. It took Sydney six minutes to register their first inside 50, but once they did they took charge.
Geelong kicked the first goal of the evening, but Sydney piled on five in a row, and then another two after Zac Smith’s goal for Geelong.
Alarmingly for the Cats, Franklin kicked none of those and had only three disposals in the first term. Instead the damage was done via two goals each to Sam Reid and Papley, while Parker’s 55-metre goal from the pocket, the Swans’ third, sucked the life out of the home crowd.
Geelong tightened the screws on Sydney in the second quarter and kicked three goals for the term, but two Sydney goals to end the term, the last a Franklin special, meant their hard work counted for little on the scoreboard at the main break.
The Cats had 14 clearances to Sydney’s six in the second quarter but the Swan defence dealt admirably with the onslaught that the home team’s stoppage dominance created.
Chris Scott’s men dominated the third quarter but only kicked two goals, with Selwood again looking worse for wear on his left leg after a Franklin tackle at the end of the term.
Reid was influential for the Swans as the spare man in defence in the second half. His positioning regularly disrupted Geelong’s forward play and made life easier for Sydney’s back six, who had their hands full early dealing with Tom Hawkins.