How a ‘hot’ midfield and smart recruiting have made the Swans untouchable

How a ‘hot’ midfield and smart recruiting have made the Swans untouchable Chat Warner celebrates a goal on Sunday

Of all the passages of play that drove the Swans to a stirring, come-from-behind victory over Geelong on Sunday, coach John Longmire nominated a Chad Warner moment – which actually resulted in a Geelong goal – as one which summed up the spirit of his side.

Warner sat under a high ball at half-back as the mob bore down on him. The near capacity SCG crowd held their breath before cheering wildly when Warner arched his back and fiercely reeled in the ball, only to boo just as loudly when the umpire called play on because the ball had been touched.

Inevitably flattened by the pursuing pack, the ball spilt free and Brad Close finished up snapping a goal, before the Swans swamped the Cats to kick the next five, claiming the lead on the way from turning a 35-point deficient into a 30-point victory.

“He ran back and took a real sky ball 30 metres out from goal,” Longmire said of Warner’s heroics midway through the third quarter. “He just ran backwards and took a really hard mark.

Intent

“It was touched and they call play on and [Geelong] got a goal out of it. We talked about it at the time [in the coach’s box]. There is not much you can do about that. That is intent. His intent was fantastic. So on the back of that, eventually if you keep working, things work out your way.”

For all the micro details waded through by armies of coaches, assistants and experts attempting to establish a winning structure, the fundamentals haven’t changed in 150 years if intent is the magic ingredient.

This could not have been more graphically highlighted than on Sunday, when the Swans began the game in a post-bye slumber which allowed Geelong to kick the first six goals. The Swans went on to kick 16 and, though Geelong added another six, four of them came in the last quarter when the Swans had the game all but won.

All Australians

Cats coach Chris Scott has a simple explanation for the dramatic turnaround, and it goes beyond the fundamental of intent. The top three possession winners on Sunday were Swans midfielders Errol Gulden (37) and Warner and Isaac Heeney, both with 26.

“If they don’t have three or four midfielders in the All Australian team right at the moment, I’d be surprised,” said Scott, who lamented the absence of Geelong’s two key playmakers, Patrick Dangerfield and Cam Guthrie.

“Their mids certainly got hot and it’s difficult. I think across the season, if you make it a bit more broad than just us, their good players are hard to keep down for the whole game.”

The numbers bore this out on Sunday. At quarter-time, the Swans were ahead of Geelong in just two of the 11 key indicators used to measure a team’s success. By the end of the match, the Swans dominated every category.

Chief among those indicators are contested possessions. Over the last three quarters, Geelong failed to double theirs, going from 46 at quarter time to 90 at the end of the game. The Swans basically tripled theirs, going from 39 to 115.

Multiply this beyond last Sunday’s game, as Chris Scott suggests, and it explains why the Swans are the leading scorers in the competition from turnovers and clearances by quite some margin.

This has led to the Swans being the most efficient team inside 50 metres whether it’s attacking or defending. The Swans, with 11 wins from 12 matches, may be two games clear on the ladder, but with by far the best percentage in the competition,148.8, the lead is really three games. Second best are Fremantle with 121.4.

Collectively the Swans have kicked more points than any other team, 1244, and conceded the second least number of points, 836. Only Fremantle have been more miserly, conceding 810.

Recruits and injuries

Despite having used the fewest number of players in the competition, 27, the Swans began their season missing three of their best and most experienced midfielders and are still without two, including captain Callum Mills, who is yet to return from a long-term shoulder injury.

Key recruit Taylor Adams from Collingwood had a late start to the season through injury, missing the first four games, while decorated veteran Luke Parker has yet to play a senior game through injury and suspension.

But the most significant difference has been the arrival of ruckman Brodie Grundy, a Collingwood and Melbourne reject.

Along with his aerial work, Grundy is one of just three ruckmen to average at least 15 disposals, 10 contested possessions, five uncontested possessions and five clearances this season, along with St Kilda’s Rowan Marshall and the man who pushed him out of Melbourne, Max Gawn.

Significantly Grundy has the most contested possessions of the trio, averaging 12.5 a game, adding an extra big-bodied midfielder to an already dynamic engine room.

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Key points

Swans coach John Longmire highlights the crunch moment which typifies Sydney.

Geelong coach Chris Scott says the Swans have All Australian midfielders.

Swans ruckman Brodie Grundy continues to stand out as recruit of the season.

  • https://www.msn.com/en-au/sport/afl/how-a-hot-midfield-and-smart-recruiting-have-made-the-swans-untouchable/ar-BB1nWhtM?ocid=00000000

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