MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 16: Nick Blakey (left) and James Rowbottom of the Swans celebrate during the 2019 AFL round 22 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Sydney Swans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 16, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Last nights’ Sydney Derby was eerily close to being scratched as a result of COVID-induced anarchy.

Gerard Whateley broke the news inside half-an-hour of the game's commencement, that a plethora of Giants and Swans players and staff were unable to participate in the contest and instead were forced to self-isolate.

This was as a result of these individuals attending the Australia-France Rugby Test at AAMI Park, which had since been updated to a Tier 2 exposure site.

This debacle left the Giants without duo Toby Greene and Matt De Boer, whereas the Swans were without Callum Mills, Harry Cunningham and Colin O’Riordan.

Sydney were in such dire straights that they had to call upon the trio of James Rowbottom, Dylan Stephens and Ben Ronke who all participated in a scratch-match the day prior. 

An undermanned and fatigue-impaired Swans outfit quickly found themselves outplayed in the first half, falling behind by as much as 35 points in the opening quarter before a late surge had them trailing by 16 heading into the major break.

From then on the Swans were able to change gears and piled on the goals as they outworked their cross-town rivals to emerge 26-point victors. 

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An emotional John Longmire addressed the media during his post-match presser and outlined the details of the chaotic situation. 

“I quickly got on the phone and rang the players back at the hotel,” Longmire commented.

“We weren’t quite sure whether it was locked in or not. So once it was locked in, we just grabbed the players together and told them: ‘We’ve been away for a month, we’ve lost staff, we don’t have one fitness guy and you lose three players before the game (and bring in three) that played yesterday”.

“To say it was a good win would probably be an understatement”, he concluded. 

Further encapsulating the obscurity of the situation was Rowbottom’s account of how he became aware that he was selected to play amongst all the pre-match disarray, which he relayed when speaking on Swans TV. 

“He said, ‘what are you doing?’ and I said: ‘I’m just in the hotel chilling out’. He said ‘good, get your gear on, it’s been a sh*tshow down here, you might be playing’,” Rowbottom said.

The inspirational win had a pair of former players in North Melbourne legend David King and St Kilda great Leigh Montagna excited about the young Swans future, especially as they build towards a strong finals campaign. 

“I love seeing this. This is a family, this is a brotherhood, this is everyone in it together, everyone doing their part” King emphasised when speaking on Fox Footy’s First Crack.

“That can build, that can get rolling and all of a sudden you get the snowball effect and they could just snowball their way through September."

Montagna then chimed in with more praise, going as far as saying that Sydney was “now officially the hottest team in the competition right now”.

“You’ve got to get going to win a premiership, you’ve got to have that momentum – and they are galvanised and they are all in it. You can see they are heavily invested in this season and it’s going to take them a long way”, Montagna added.

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The Swans currently occupy sixth position on the ladder and are a chance to push for a top-four finish as they have a string of winnable games ahead. They have currently taken out top sides like Brisbane, Geelong and the Western Bulldogs, while they also bested reigning premiers Richmond and dismantled a West Coast outfit that sits behind them at seventh. 

The Swans are clearly well positioned to make a big push towards the finals and are on track to occupy the danger team slot as they surge towards September.