AFL Round 23: Sydney v Richmond – reasons to believe

It was the final game of the year and the Tigers had everything to play for and the Swans had almost nothing. A top two finish was in the bag and no Swans fan would have fancied an injury to a player to ensure a win. Franklin, Pyke, Kennedy and McGlynn were all out and Richmond was as close to full strength as they could be. If the Tigers could within this one they were back in the finals after an extraordinary run home.

ANZ Stadium reminds you of an old glass of tonic water on a train to Cairns; flat and spiritless with an unstable surface. The rain and cold had further killed off the chance of a big crowd. And just to add to the misery, the Tigers bolted out of the blocks and were over five goals up before the Swans had even woken up. Maric was thumping them in the ruck and jumping Jack looked like he was going to kick ten.

We had seen it before though. Richmond were a good team but not a great one and Sydney were always going to haul them back. Slowly they did. They weren’t great and the conditions didn’t help but they slowly started moving. McVeigh and Tippett kicked one each before the end of the quarter and at least they were on the board. Rohan tore through the midfield halfway through the second and set up another. When Parker kicked another towards the big break; the red and white were really starting to move. And by the end of the third, they were starting to leave the tarmac. When Goodes lined up for a goal and put it through, the Swans had hit the lead and it looked all over.

But to give the Tigers their due, they responded as the game cranked up another gear. The crowd came into the game and the Swans pressed through nice runs from Hannebery and Reid. There was less than one goal in it with four minutes to go. The coin had left the hand and was spinning upwards when Goodes had the ball in his hands inside the forward arc and free men around. But he kept running and Ellis mowed him down. The Swans kept trying and the ball turned over again and again but the ball was with the Tigers when the siren blew.

I wasn’t too sad. I was glad to see the Tigers finally slip into the finals after everyone had written them off. If there was a team that had been cursed and then redeemed, it was the team of yellow and black. They had a lot of fans who had waited a long time. For even if they got bowled out in the first round of the finals, they still had a reason to believe.

And on the other side of the ledger, the Swans had played in one of the cliff hangers of the year and hadn’t been shamed. They still had a handful of stars to slot back in. There were still games to play and their success was going to measured by where they got to from here. And their fans had reason to believe.


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