Fast start crucial for Sydney Swans in AFL grand final against Western Bulldogs

by admin on July 15th, 2018

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Eyes on the prize: Jarrad McVeigh looks at the premiership cup on Friday. Photo: Darrian TraynorHarsh lessons learned from their embarrassing 2014 grand final defeat have the Swans primed to claim a second AFL flag in four years.

After a brief slip-up against GWS in week one of the finals Sydney has gone back to basics, its fearless attack on the football setting up two devastating first quarters against Adelaide and then Geelong which have earned a place alongside the Western Bulldogs in the season decider.

A first-quarter debacle in the grand final against Hawthorn two years ago was the precursor to Sydney’s 63-point drubbing at the hands of the Hawks, a result that still rankles among the 2016 playing group.

This season the Swans have been the league’s best first-quarter team. They led after the first term in 17 regular season games, and outscored their opponents by 224 points in the opening quadrant of each game.

The Bulldogs’ differential in that statistic stood at +119 after the regular season.

Having piled on seven goals in the opening term against Adelaide and then Geelong in the past two weeks, co-captain Jarrad McVeigh said the Swans are determined to launch an early blitz on the Bulldogs.

“To watch the boys the way they went about it it [last week] was really good, to see the momentum and the surge that we played with, the hardness,” McVeigh said.

“You’re not always going to get a seven-goal start in a game. The reality is that mightn’t happen tomorrow at all. It’s going to be a hard fought contest all game and it might come down to the last minute to get that win and we’re prepared for that.

“Ideally you do start like that but grand finals are not won in the first minute I don’t think, and it’s going to take a real four-quarter effort to beat these guys.”

McVeigh is one of 13 Swans who played in the grand final two years ago, a performance he says still doesn’t sit well with him.

At quarter time in that game the Hawks already led by 20 points, on the back of a 22-7 tackle count.

Contrary to their usual style in that game, Sydney were completely dominated around the contested ball and were unable to stem the wave of Hawthorn momentum.

Dan Hannebery was crunched by Jarryd Roughead in one bone-jarring tackle while Lewis Jetta didn’t touch the ball until two minutes from quarter time and was met solidly by Luke Hodge for his trouble.

The endless pressure completely rattled the Swans. Heath Grundy spoiled a ball deep in the back half that could have been marked leading to a Hawks goal, and moments later Shaun Burgoyne was allowed to stroll through past three Swans through the centre of the MCG with barely a hand laid on him.

Countless moments quickly accumulated and the Swans’ premiership dream evaporated.

“You’ve got to be at your best, always,” coach John Longmire said.

“Anything less than that you leave yourself open. There’s just no room for not being at your best, you need to play well.

“That’s the excitement of being in at this time of the year. It’s fantastic there’s two teams left, it’s great to be able to get to this time of the year and have that in front of us tomorrow and it’s the challenge that both teams are looking forward to, being at their best for the longest tomorrow.”

Longmire says the experience from 2014 won’t count for a huge deal because this is a different season.

But there are 13 Swans about to run onto the MCG desperate to atone for one of the worst days in their history.

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