The AFL home and away season is coming to a close with five rounds left in the season.
Currently sitting sixth on the ladder, the Sydney Swans are fighting to get into the top four. John Longmire believes consistency is key throughout all four quarters.
The Swans took a huge scalp in Round 18 over the Dockers. Trailing by 23 points in the second quarter, thy turned the motor on and went on to defeat the home side by 17 points.
As the small but passionate interstate crowd cheered them on, all 22 players put on a finals worthy performance against an elite Dockers midfield.
Tagger Ryan Clarke led the charge, taking Andrew Brayshaw out of the game and limiting his involvement. Premium midfielders Chad Warner and Callum Mills took the game away with 35 and 26 disposals each.
Warner has been the Swans’ best player in recent weeks and has received huge praise from the Swans coaching staff. He ended the game with one goal, 24 kicks and 11 handballs, consistently being involved in the midfield and forward 50.
“Chad’s been improving year on year, week on week,” Longmire said.
“He’s only in very much the infancy of his AFL career, but we’ve been really pleased at his application to work hard and willingness to keep on learning.
“He’s got some natural explosiveness and power in his game that has been really important, but his ability to learn, and keep wanting to improve has been a real standout.”
The Dockers’ midfield consisting of Brayshaw, Will Brodie, David Mundy, Blake Acres and Nat Fyfe were unable to take the game away from the Swans in the second half. None of them had more than 25 disposals, with only Brodie registering more than 20 disposals.
Longmire was happy with his team’s performance coming back into the game, but was disappointed they couldn’t play like that for all four quarters.
“It’s what we’re aiming for, we’re aiming for that consistency but I’m not sure it’s that line in the sand moment. It’s a case of looking at the game and seeing what we did well,” the coach continued.
“There’s still some areas in the game that we can improve upon, there always is. Over there against a quality team it was terrific to be able to come away with that win, but the reality is we need to be consistent.”
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The Swans will be hoping to keep their winning streak going against the Adelaide Crows this week at home. Coming off a strong performance against last round, their continued pressure around the ball made it hard for the Magpies to run away with easy goals.
Longmire discussed using Clarke as a tagger again this week, but didn’t make it certain. The Crows’ midfield flow comes from Rory Laird and Ben Keays. While the Swans coach didn’t confirm it is expected Clarke will have a role to play on one of these individuals.
Laird is averaging an elite amount of disposals with 33.5 per game. Not only is he one of their best players in attack, but also a defensive weapon. His 8.3 tackles and 7.4 total clearances per game puts him in the elite category for midfielders.
Keays has recently been playing second-fiddle to Laird, but is averaging 29.2 disposals and just under five tackles a game. If Clarke goes to Laird, Keays is a player the Swans will have to watch out for this week.
“They’ve got some real pressure in their game at the moment, their tackling on the weekend, their pressure numbers in that game was off the charts,” Longmire said.
“We’re aware what they can bring, they’re a real high pressure team, they’ve got some strong players all over the paddock and we’ll be looking at what they do.
“It was a terrific win last week but our attention turns very quickly to this week and knowing what Adelaide can do. Their pressure skills are really high up there, we need to make sure we play well this week.”
The Swans will be hoping they can get ahead of the Crows and jump into the top four at the end of the round. One win away from earning the double chance, they have a difficult schedule ahead of them. After their Round 19 clash against the Crows they will face GWS, North Melbourne, Collingwood and St Kilda.
The Giants are always good opposition when playing in the Sydney derby, and will be tough to beat. The Kangaroos are starting to find themselves after a unprecedented win against Richmond. The Magpies and Saints will both be pushing for a good spot in the finals and will bring their best.
This is a must win game for the Sydney Swans if they want to squeeze into the top four alongside Geelong and Melbourne.
“We’ve still got five weeks to go. We have to win against Adelaide this week, that’s as closely as I’m looking at it. We’re still striving for that consistency and that’s what we’re after in the back end of the year,” Longmire said.
“If you keep focusing on day to day, and that’s what the players are mindful of, it tends to work out for itself.”
The Sydney Swans and Redkite will come together to mark Red Day at the Round 19 fixture against the Adelaide Crows on Saturday July 23.
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