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Opposition Analysis: Sydney Swans

Jon Edwards and Rory Coleman-Heard  July 29, 2016 2:16 PM

Head to head: Fremantle v Sydney

Sydney will push to reclaim their top two spot when they clash with Fremantle at Domain Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Swans come off two thrilling weeks, with a five-point loss to Hawthorn in round 17, and a nail-biting six-point victory over Carlton in last week’s round 18 match. The loss to Hawthorn saw them drop from second place to fifth. Now sitting third, the Swans are hungry to break into the top two and secure a home final. They are among six teams with 12 wins, and a victory on Sunday could propel them ahead of the Giants, who they trail by less than three percentage points. Conversely, a loss could relegate the Swans to as low as 7th spot.

Talking Points v Swans

The last time

Qualifying Final, 2015: Fremantle 10.9 69 defeated Sydney 7.18 60

Fremantle withstood a barrage of attack from an undermanned Sydney Swans, to secure its second home preliminary final in three seasons.

Sydney lead the inside 50 count 53-41 and had six more scoring shots than Fremantle, but a lack of accuracy in front of goal cost the Swans dearly.

Freo held onto the lead after a final term burst from the Swans, coming out as nine-point victors.

Nat Fyfe lead the charge for Fremantle, gathering 32 disposals, four marks and four tackles.

Aaron Sandilands gave Fremantle first use for the majority of the day with his 43 hit-outs, as well as working hard around the ground, with 17 disposals, three marks and three tackles to add to his name.

Michael Walters and Hayden Ballantyne topped the scoring for Fremantle, kicking three goals each.

For Sydney, Josh Kennedy was a ball magnet, collecting 39 disposals, five marks and eight tackles, while skipper Jarrad McVeigh applied pressure in the contests, with 11 tackles and 23 disposals for the day.

TABtouch squad: Six in for Fremantle

What has changed?

Sydney’s Adam Goodes retired at the end of the 2015 season, while Kurt Tippet (Hamstring tendon), Sam Reid (Calf/Achilles), Jeremy Laidler (Hamstring) and Zak Jones (Ankle) who all played in the 2015 qualifying final, will miss this week with injury.

Wingman Lewis Jetta was traded at the end of the 2015 season to the West Coast Eagles for ruckman Callum Sinclair, who will miss this week’s game with a knee injury.

The Swans have had a resurgence in class since the last time they faced Freo, with Luke Parker, Lance Franklin, Kieren Jack and Isaac Heeney all playing this week.

De Boer to face Swans

The stats

The Swans are known for their hard-bodied midfielders, and the entire team is a strong force, sitting third in the competition for tackles per game. They dominate possession, ranked third for handballs per game, second in disposals per game and rarely turn the ball over.

Fremantle currently sit 9th in the league for tackles, 9th for handballs and 13th in disposals.

Sydney attack the game hard, and bombard the opposition with multiple entries inside 50 to their key forwards Franklin and Dean Towers. They currently sit second in the competition for inside 50s, with 56.5 per game.

Match preview v Sydney

The match-ups:

Neale versus Hannebery

The battle of the ball magnets, Neale currently leads the competition in total disposals with 560 (averaging 32.94) while Hannebery sits fifth with 511 (averaging 30.06). Their ability to win possession for their team, particularly in contested situations (Neale sits third with an average of 16, and Hannebery ninth with an average of 13.82 per game), is pivotal for success. 

Both players are strong, in an under players, who boast elite levels of fitness. They serve as catalysts in their teams, sparking the run of the play and winning the ball for their team.

Franklin versus Freo’s defence

Franklin is a barometer for the Swans. When he’s firing, Sydney are nearly unbeatable.  

Franklin has hit career best form in 2016. He currently sits second in the Coleman medal race, with a total of 57 goals for the year so far.

For season 2016, Franklin is ranked 5th in total inside 50s and 6th in total marks inside 50. His ability to run and get to space, as well as take the contested marks, means the Fremantle defenders will have their work cut out for them in the clash on Sunday. 

It won’t be up to any singular defender to put a stop to Franklin. Zac Dawson and Sam Collins will be key in providing a strong contest in their, while Hayden Crozier, Tommy Sheridan and Cameron Sutcliffe will be essential in intercepting the ball and applying pressure to the ball carrier delivering it inside 50 to Franklin.

Experience versus youth

Based in a state traditionally inclined towards rugby league, Sydney have needed to remain competitive to sustain their market share. Through a blend of shrewd drafting and recruitment, the Swans have avoided a traditional ‘rebuild’ and played in 12 of the past 13 finals series. 

Against Carlton, John Longmire fielded nine players with less than 30 games experience including Jordan Foote (one match), Xavier Richards (three), Sam Naismith (four), Aliir Aliir (five), Tom Papley (11), George Hewett (15) Callum Mills (16), Dean Towers (26) and Isaac Heeney (29). Zac Jones has also notched 29 games but injured his knee a fortnight ago, while Daniel Robinson (11 games) has shown glimpses of his talent.  

Star power through the middle 

Though a large percentage of Sydney’s team remain relatively raw, the Swans' midfield is still one of the most potent in the league. Josh Kennedy boasts a league-high average for contested possessions (16.6 per match), sits third for clearances (7.4) and fifth for disposals (30.1). Dan Hannebery is fifth for total disposals (510) and equal 10th for contested possessions, alongside teammate Luke Parker who, in his own right, ranks impressively for clearances (11th).

The trio individually average more than five tackles, and have combined for 31 goals. If Freo is to stand any chance of winning the midfield battle, at least one of Kennedy, Hannebery or Parker needs to be quelled.

Impregnable backline

Through a combination of structure and personnel, Longmire’s men form the most disciplined zonal defence in the league. The Swans concede an average score of just 69 (ranked first in the AFL), primarily because the ball spends little time inside their defensive arc. Small forwards Papley, Hewett, Heeney and Ben McGlinn – who returns to the squad this week – have made their names applying pressure forward of centre.

When opposition backlines are forced to clear the ball out, Sydney’s defenders push up the ground to collect the intercept possession – for which they are also the competition's best (78.9 per match).  And if play does end up inside the Swans’ back half, Heath Grundy, Aliir Aliir, Dane Rampe and Ted Richards have all proven to be more than useful in one-on-one situations.

Sydney should enjoy the skinny nature of Domain Stadium, which is 24 metres narrower than their home deck. If Freo is to break through the web, they may be forced to go over or through, rather than around.

Fremantle's game against Sydney at Domain Stadium on Sunday is proudly presented by Channel 7 Perth.