AFL Round 23 – Sydney v Richmond: The one we had to lose?

I nearly walked out.

First quarter, twenty minutes in, and we were thirty three points down with nothing on the scoreboard. Not since round four had I seen such a terrible performance from the Swans. That North game still stands as one of the low watermarks in recent history and had everyone writing us off. The gleeful ‘told you Buddy would ruin them’ sentiments weren’t even being disguised as serious commentary anymore. Christ I was even starting to wonder if it was true.

But in true Swans style it was the motivator that propelled them into their best home and away season for several decades and had us poised to become minor premiers.

Earlier this week McVeigh made a defiant statement about not letting up in intensity which made me curse the captain for opening his mouth. Everyone knows the second that sort of comment comes out you might as well chalk up another loss. I nearly called the club before they let someone else in front of the camera frothing some gibberish about expecting a solid effort. By Friday night it was clear The Enemy had everything on the line with this one; a top eight spot or straight to Bali on an early holiday. We were top of the ladder and little to play for.

Maybe that was the problem.

I arrived at ANZ Stadium to find Buddy wasn’t playing. The warning signals went up a notch.

My standard game day notation consists of smiley faces for our scores, frowning faces for The Enemy. Right now I’m looking down at an unbroken line of frowns for the first quarter. That Sherrin went through the uprights with depressing regularity. Twenty minutes of frowning faces on and off the page. No matter how little is on the line it’s still hard watching your team getting smashed. McVeigh and Tippett managed to stem the bleeding late in the quarter but the score was less of a worry than the absence of defence and basic skills. I contemplated that maybe if I went home things would get better.

The thirteen point deficit by the end of the second quarter was flattering. Other than Towers’ goal and Parker’s pack mark, there wasn’t a whole lot of positives to take out of it. Kick and hope was the order of the day and if we didn’t stuff it up ourselves, the umpires did their best to help. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but in a game where it was supposedly some fairy tale for The Enemy to make the finals you couldn’t help but wonder.

Our intensity lifted in the third. More smiley faces on the page now marred by a big exclamation mark for the softest 50m free kick ever against Richards. We were still way down in the skill stakes though. It was like the entire team had collectively adopted a “lets confuse The Enemy by playing like crap” strategy. Five points down heading into the final break seemed more like luck than anything.

Something must have clicked in the final term because the Swans’ fighting instinct kicked in. Slowly but surely through a series of behinds we drew level then ahead. However, as the sky darkened, so did our chances of pulling off a victory. Left stranded in the back line Richards caught a bad bounce, slipped over and left an open goal that sealed our fate. We fought on but fell short by three points.

I left Olympic Park in a weird mood. Sure the game didn’t mean that much in the grand scheme of things. And we didn’t get any injuries. But the lack of composure and shocking decision making had me concerned. Shaw, normally so good, struck me as a bit of a liability today. Jetta’s lack of run, even with a whole paddock ahead of him, was puzzling. Tippett’s a great kick but with no supply he could’ve read a book up in the forward fifty. Resting players was undoubtedly the smart thing to do but we really need those key players back in the side.

It occurred to me later that night though we narrowly lost the final 2012 home and away game too, that didn’t work out too badly in the long run now did it?

My votes Rance (RT), Parker (SS), the pitch invader (?)

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