MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Callum Mills of the Swans looks dejected after a loss during the 2022 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Geelong Cats and the Sydney Swans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 24, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

If there were question marks over whether or not the Sydney Swans bared any scars from their 81-point humiliation against Geelong in the 2022 Grand Final – then the answer is yes.

There were two anticipated storylines heading into Saturday night's grand final rematch at GMHBA stadium.

The unveiling of Geelong's premiership flag in front of their adoring home crowd, and an opportunity for the Swans to dispel at least a few grand final demons from last year.

The grand final rematch turned into a grand final replay, with Geelong handing Sydney a 93-point belting in a horror show that revealed scars from that fateful day, and also added a few more.

The two matches were eerily similar, with Geelong taking a 27-point lead into quarter time - that margin was 35 on the last day of September last year.

Both matches saw Geelong dominate the third quarter, with the Cats kicking seven unanswered goals on Saturday night, incredibly, they also booted home six unanswered goals in last year's decider.

One of the most alarming aspects is that the Swans did not register a goal after half-time, adding only three behinds.

With a huge proportion of key players under the age of 25, without doubt, the Swans arrived on the grand final stage prematurely, whether or not that same notion was felt internally.

The Swans won 16 games in last year's home and away season, before beating reigning premiers Melbourne in a brilliant performance in the qualifying final - evidence alone to suggest they are good enough.

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Their 81-point grand final loss could almost be forgiven as an anomaly, as a young team was completely overawed by football's grandest action.

However, a second loss of a similar ilk has given berth to an alarming trend that will now no doubt have an added mental component as well.

A 50-point loss to Melbourne at the MCG in Round 3 was concerning, but Melbourne were just as impressive as the Swans were disappointing, blowing the Bloods away with a seven-goal last quarter, after only leading by six points midway through the third quarter.

Those three performances however have now created an ugly recent history in Victoria for the Swans.

Losing their last three games in Victoria by an average of 74 points, alarmingly all within their last seven games.

Admittedly the Swans are severely depleted at the moment, with the injuries they have to key players it cannot be underestimated how big of an effect this is having on a young team.

Lance Franklin, Dane Rampe, Tom Hickey and key defenders Paddy and Tom McCartin were all missing from the team that played the Cats on Saturday night – all of whom are first picked when available.

The injury crisis at the Swans saw coach John Longmire trying to combat the influence of star Cats duo Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron without his two key defenders.

All-Australian midfielder Callum Mills was thrust into the role of guarding Hawkins, whilst medium-sized defender Robbie Fox had the task of Coleman Medal favourite Cameron.

Both battled stoutly but were outmuscled and outplayed as the Cats pair combined for ten goals between them.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 08: Callum Mills of the Swans speaks to John Longmire, coach of the Swans, after the round four AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Essendon Bombers at Sydney Cricket Ground on April 08, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

The 93-point loss to Geelong is Longmire's biggest defeat as Swans coach in his 13-year tenure at the helm.

“It's hard to put into words really,” Longmire said in his post-game press conference.

“We needed to push back and compete harder than that.

“Our situation means that we've got our All-Australian midfielder at full-back, that's what we had to do last week, but our ability to compete against the Tigers even when challenged, was a lot better than what it was tonight.”

Longmire isn't expecting an influx of stars to return for their clash with cross-town rivals Greater Western Sydney this Saturday, and the Swans' injury crisis is set to worsen with Fox already ruled out with concussion.

How the Swans respond in the coming weeks will be the ultimate test of character for a young Swans brigade that has been brutally beaten and bruised.

Injuries have forced them to play with one hand tied behind their back, and the next month looms as season-defining if they are to play finals again in 2023.

The question that lies now, is can the Swans respond?

What learnings can they take from two embarrassing performances that don't encapsulate the famous "Bloods culture".

It looms as a pivotal time for John Longmire's men, which may just prove to be the making or the breaking of them.