AFL Round 18 – Sydney v Richmond: White bags a Tiger

Tiger hunting, a once popular but now unsavoury pastime, is alive and well this Sunday evening at the SCG. But it’s not some magnificent yet defenceless animal our fearless heroes are looking to snare tonight but a growing beast that over the years has been steadily stalking a place in the top eight. Last year the hunter became the hunted and we came out of that encounter slashed to ribbons and forced to flee north to ponder the next move. Ultimately it proved a pivotal, galvanising moment but that was a mid season affair, the sort of game that can be dropped without too much danger. This time round we’re roaring up to the pointy end of the season and although a loss may not mean much for ladder positions psychically there’s a lot riding on not going down here.

I’m not sold on these Sunday twilight games. This time of the afternoon usually signals the time to start dinner, to start slowing down and thinking morosely about the day job you’d rather not turn up to. Seems the Swans are sort of in that mood too as The Enemy get the jump on the scoreboard with two goals and a behind. Malceski gets flattened in a bruising shirtfront and it’s not looking good as he shambles down the race nursing his shoulder. Brandon Jack’s goal is a beauty but The Enemy are looking ominously fast, breaking tackles and moving the ball quickly down the wing to score twice. A slower build up from the Swans results in Tippett earning his keep. Then our other big man, Jesse White, smashes in a goal. I’m hinking about who hasn’t scored a goal this season and Nick Smith springs to mind. Cue a fumbling attack in the forward fifty and Smith’s on the board. White steps up yet again but The Enemy respond way too easily. Rampe takes a great intercept only to stuff up the attempt on goal. A spearing kick to Mitchell is wasted. Kennedy belts on in but it’s touched. The Enemy lope free again to score easily. Scores level on the siren.

Clearly we have a fight on our hands here but the boys seem up for it. O’Keefe’s belts the ball up high off the boundary and Tippett takes a super grab despite White nearly spoiling. Our draft prize scores the six but The Enemy are quick to counter off our fumbling in the backline. It looks like a throw from The Enemy where I’m sitting but clearly the umpires are no mood for such trifling matters. They also seem oblivious to the players hanging off Tippett like barnacles on a hull. Mitchell makes amends for his earlier miss and Captain Jack, with his usual panache, darts out of the pack to boot one in. We reach a lull in the scoring with both sides fighting for territory and Bolton stuffs up a promising build up. Things are going our way though as The Enemy push Richards in the back to ruin a certain goal and we’re fifteen points up at half time.

The Swans really switch on in the third with a dominant display. I’m still troubled at how The Enemy are finding space to attack but thankfully the traffic is mostly one way. Malceski’s shoulder looks fine and Tippett, Jack and Pyke are adding to The Enemy’s woes. White is playing a blinder getting two goals, the second coming off some superb ‘get out of jail’ handpassing in our defensive fifty, feeding the ball to Bolton who spots the big bloke uptown. The Enemy blaze away but we’re into the final break with a comfortable margin.

Of course there’s every chance we’ll go backwards here but clearly everyone’s learnt from the Freo draw and the boys stomp on the pedal to really stretch their lead. The Swans supporter two rows down, always very vocal, is still frustrated at the skill errors though. A nearby Enemy supporter laughs about being hard to please. I tell him the bloke is our real coach; Longmire’s merely a stand in. We shake hands and he’s off. Ten minutes later we are too, the Swans anthem ringing in our ears.

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