22/05/2024

Errol Gulden had a staggering 45 disposals against Carlton on Friday night. (Image: AFL/Twitter)

The Swans will be riding into the 2023 season on a high note after a seven goal win against Carlton on Friday night. Both sides were missing some big names as they went to battle in their final competitive practice before the season kicks off in a fortnight.

Errol Gulden was the standout once again for the Bloods, willing himself around the ground to finish with 45 disposals for the night. He also tests defenders when pushing forward, kicking three goals to round out a stellar performance.

Moving into the midfield after finishing last season on the wing, Gulden showed he has what it takes to compete with the bigger bodies of the competition. He didn’t shy away from the physical nature of Carlton’s engine room, and dominated them with his spread from the contest.

Speaking after the game, Sydney Assistant Coach Jarrad McVeigh was overjoyed with the 20-year-old’s performance, and says it’s a testament to his work ethic.

“It’s as good a game as you’ll ever see,” McVeigh said about Gulden’s performance.

“45 touches, three goals, and I think he led our pressure acts for the night as well. He played a lot more midfield tonight with [Callum] Mills having a rest tonight.

“We know he can play forward, wing and midfield. Tonight was probably more midfield for him and he came through with flying colours.

“It was really pleasing for him, and hopefully his trajectory as a player can keep going upward.”

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The Swans’ forward line was flooded with height, with seven players above 195cm rotating through the front half. Young guns Lachlan McAndrew and Will Edwards may be unlikely to feature early in the season, but they did themselves no harm against a well-structured Blues defence.

Pending injuries, Buddy is a certainty to feature in round one. Aside from that, you may as well draw the rest of the names out of a hat.

Sam Reid is most likely the front-runner for the second-tall role, while Logan McDonald and Hayden McLean will have to fight for the remaining minutes. Pete Ladhams is another name who will start the season, but where does he fit when Hickey returns?

McVeigh says it’s a good problem to have, their depth in the height department is something he’s sure plenty of other teams will be jealous of.

“We tried to get lots of minutes into our tall players,” McVeigh said.

“It was good to get Pete back and jumping again, we thought he played well.

“It’s been good to through a few of them [talls] around. We know Logan can play higher up the ground if we need him to.”

With Joel Amartey and new recruit Aaron Francis waiting in the wings, the pressure will be on for the Swans’ talls, and McVeigh is confident they can fit them all in the side without causing any problems.

“We’re still tinkering,” McVeigh said.

“We’ll just see how it looks, see who we’re playing and what those matchups are like.

“It’s nice to have good options at our disposal.”

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The Blues’ recruits were on full show at Blacktown International Stadium. Blake Acres showed he was the wingman that Carlton supporters have been screaming for, while Oliver Hollands proved he was more than comfortable at the level.

Acres patrolled the wing for most of the night, he was pivotal in Carlton’s transition and will provide the consistency they’ve been sorely lacking. He was one of the Blues’ best on the night, finishing with 20 disposals and a goal.

Assistant Coach Ash Hansen spoke highly of the new acquisition, but says he brings benefits beyond finding the ball.

“His voice on-field to support our structure is critical,” Hansen told media after the game.

“We liked his goal and his ability to finish going across 45 [metres from goal], he’s a strong big-bodied midfielder.

“In games like tonight, they’re really important. So his is experience, it certainly balances us out with Ollie Hollands, Lochie O’Brien [rotating through the wings].”

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Oliver Hollands, pick 11 from last year’s draft, had another strong showing after his competitive debut against Collingwood last week. He played through the midfield and wing, moving around the outside of contests and releasing the ball.

He finished with 440 metres gained, the third most for the Blues, and certainly did himself no harm for the round one calculations. Hansen says admitted he’s certainly in the mix, but there’s a lot of big names for him to compete against.

“Ollie is only in his second game of competing at AFL level,” Hansen said.

“We love Ollie so far, his ability to defensively support our system and run both ways. He can cover ground quickly when he gets his head down.

“He’s learning well, he’s very coachable. We think he’s got a bright future, he’s taking those steps every week.

“That midfield group is really competitive on how we’re going to look in round one, but he’s doing everything he can at the moment.”

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