We’ve only reviewed one top eight side so far in this series so it’s time to delve into the elite sides of the competition. The next three reviews are all top eight sides, starting with the Sydney Swans.
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th
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Current Position: 4th
Premiership Odds: $6.50 (via TopSport)
Forecast: Top 4 finish
Well I got this one seriously wrong! I was one who thought the retirements of key players would hurt the Swans and that finals would be a struggle to get to, but I have clearly made an error in judgement, as the Swans are looking quite good at the moment.
Sydney are sitting at 10-4 and are equal second with a solid percentage of 137.03 per cent. Notable wins over Hawthorn, North Melbourne and West Coast show the club are well within their right to be considered a flag chance. However, close losses to both Richmond and most recently, the Bulldogs, when they had the game sewn up, raises question marks over the ability to close out games.
Despite all of this, Sydney are on track to finish in the top four and will most likely to have to travel down to Melbourne, which they don’t mind one bit. Lets take a deeper look at how John Longmire’s side has gone so far in 2016.
What’s Gone Right
Sydney are known for the tough stance on the game, and they’re always a difficult team to face. Contested ball has been their forte this season, averaging 164.8 a game in 2016, the best in the competition. The closest team to the Swans in this department are the Bulldogs with 152.9, the side they lost to on the weekend.
Sydney are by far the best contested ball team in the league and they have been for the past few years. Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker are crucial to the Swans’ gameplan in the middle. These three players are in the top seven in the competition for contested ball numbers.
This has transferred into their tackle numbers which is also the best in the league. The Swans lay on average 84 tackles a game and this was largely evident in their win over Melbourne in shocking weather conditions, where they laid a record 155 tackles in the 55-point win.
Again Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy and Dan Hannebery are all in the top five at the club in terms of tackles along with Tom Mitchell and Kieran Jack who also rate well for contested ball. Playing Sydney, you’re almost certain they’re going to turn up and give it their all.
It also helps, having Buddy Franklin in the form of his career, leading the Coleman Medal race with 52 goals so far this season.
What’s Gone Wrong
Turnovers. Sydney are the worst turnover side in the league, averaging 76.2 a game and its come playing away from the SCG which is known for its narrow confines. An inexperience defence at times has been caught out on the bigger grounds and have buckled, turning the ball over. Its something the Swans need to fix up, because the best sides will punish you with scores from turnovers. It’ll be interesting to see how they go against the Cats this week.
In form ruckman, Kurt Tippett is set to miss up to two months of footy and Callum Sinclair must shoulder the main responsibilities from now on. It could be an area where the Swans will struggle in, coming into the run-in.
Lance Franklin is a shoe in for All-Australian this year, returning to his best form after a few months away battling with depression. Along with his 52 goals, Franklin is averaging 17.9 disposals, 9 score involvements and 5 marks a game. His also averaging more metres than in 2015, with 453.1 a game compared to 321 last year.
It’s great for the competition having Buddy back to his best and it will be intriguing to see whether he can crack the 100 again come the end of the season.
Dane Rampe is also in great form off half-back. He is the number one interceptor in the competition, averaging 8 intercept possessions per game up from five per game in 2015. His also using the ball well in a team that doesn’t use the ball as efficiently, with 77 per cent efficiency.
Academy product, Callum Mills has slotted in brilliantly across half-back and has an incredibly bright future ahead of him. Rookie Tom Papley has provided plenty of spark and pressure up forward.
Former Eagle Callum Sinclair has paired well with Tippett in the ruck and with Lewis Jetta struggling for game time at West Coast, you feel the Swans have done well in this particular transaction.