It was the first time crowds were able to be at an MCG final in three years and over 77,000 rolled into this Friday night's 2nd Qualifying Final. At the end of the home and away season both teams finished on 16 wins, with just 2.7% between them on the Premiership ladder. But if there was anything to indicate how this might go, the Swans came into this match having won their last six home and away matches, while Melbourne lost to both Collingwood and the Bulldogs in that time.
Last season's Premiers, Melbourne, won the toss and kicked to the city end. On their home turf they would be eager to try to put the Swans out of contention early. So it looked in the first quarter. The Demons looked the best coming out of the blocks but breaking the early run of play, the first goal went to Hayward when ball, long to the square, spilled free and Hayward snapped the goal. Bailey Fritsch showed he was ready to fire when he cut off a pass to Gawn, and his set shot from 40 meters out from goal leveled the scores.
Spargo kicked the Demon's second goal when Melksham roved the contest and he hit Spargo, who was unopposed, and ran in and kick the goal. But hang on a minute, a goal review was requested by the officials, as they wanted to check if the ball hit the post. The all clear was given and the goal counted. Rowbottom leveled the score once again when he roved and his scrappy kick beat both his teammate Franklin and defender May as it dribbled across the goal square and over the line. Ben Brown and Bailey Fritsch added goals to give the Demons a 10-point lead at quarter time. While the Demons were clearly on top with their aerial dominance, had Heeney and Reid (who hit the post) not missed shots the scoreboard would have been closer. May had a stand out quarter in defense, keeping Franklin deadly quiet in the first term.
Kozzy Pickett saw the Demons stretch the lead at the start of the second quarter when he marked in the pocket 15 meters in from the boundary. His set shot goal was on target, after missing a similar shot in the first quarter. But then the game changed. With some push and shove well off the ball that was on the Swans half back flank, back to back 50 meter penalties against May for pushing/elbowing Lance Franklin saw Hayward kick his second goal of the match from point blank range. The Demons immediately looked off their game and the Swans seemed angry and their pressure and intensity lifted. Through sheer will they were able to squeeze a kick from Warner to Papley in the pocket and he put the set shot kick through the middle of the goals.
They pushed forward hard and Papley almost had another goal as he ran inside 50, his high floating kick landing in the arms of teammate Heeney on the line, but Heeney somehow missed the set shot. Minutes later the Swans were looking to be on a real roll across the field and worked the ball to Mills, who roved the loose ball and snapped a goal from 20 meters out, straight in front to give his team the lead.
The Demons tried to respond but the set shot by Neal-Bullen drifted to the left for a behind and Petracca's shot at goal went out on the full. Meanwhile the Swans drew away as Stevens, with the free kick from 49 meters out, ran around the mark and kicked the banana goal to put the Swans seven points up. Again luck had left the Demons as Fritsch's set shot from 30 meters out in the pocket, drifted across the face for a behind to see the Swans now lead by a goal at the main break.
While the Demons had been rattled in the second quarter, you would expect the reigning Premiers to regroup at half time and reset. It appeared that was the case as Clayton Oliver brought a huge roar, tainted with relief from the home crowd when he kicked the first goal of the second half. His crude tackle, and depending what angle you saw it from, was rewarded. The scores were level once again with most of the second half to come.
Bailey Fritsch was again up and about, tracking the ball to the boundary snapped the ball on his left, bending the ball in a way that might have seemed impossible to go through the goal posts, yet it did. When the more orthodox goal came through Sparrow, running into the 50 to be on the end of a chain of Melbourne handballs, it looked like they might pull away for good. It was the livewire Papley on the defensive side of the pack that swooped on the ball and snapped around the pack for a goal. Then Lloyd deep in the pocket, backed that up with a long right foot kick for a goal and again the scores were tied.
Gulden had the footy ricochet to him, and was immediately tackled and penalized despite no obvious prior opportunity to dispose of the ball. Clayton Oliver goaled the resulting free kick from 30 meters out, straight in front. The Swans pressure once again came to the fore, and while May continued to stop Franklin, getting involved Parker, who was able to chime in for a goal. Reid took up the slack as the big man up forward scoring his first goal after protected area infringement put him at close range, and the second after taking a big grab at the top of the 50, and draining the long set shot to give his team a 13-point lead.
Both teams looked to their big men up forward. Gawn and Hickey's ruck battle for the night was a highlight, with the latter ultimately shadowing the former. And now they traded goals. A free kick to Max Gawn 40 meters out from goal after he was held in the marking contest and at the other end, Hickey not to be outdone marked just 15 meters out from goal as the defensive spoil was inept from Gawn and Langdon. Late in the quarter Neal-Bullen's clearance with a neat kick to Melksham was a chance for the Demons to narrow the margin before the last break but he missed the set shot from the pocket, leaving the Swans with a two goal lead at three quarter time.
After an eleven goal third quarter, the final quarter was much more defensive and while the likes of May and Lever continued to be solid it was the McCartin brothers at the other end of the ground that capped off great games with a clean goal sheet in the last. The Swans drew further ahead early on as James Harmes crunched Jake Lloyd with a forearm to the throat, and Lloyd was up quickly to take the resulting free kick and used a 50 meter penalty to goal from point blank range. Harmes' season may be over if the Match Review Panel has their way with that incident, at any rate he is almost certainly not playing next week.
The Demons tried to mount a challenge but the Swans defense stood strong, and at the thirteen and a half minute mark during the game, the flashing light towers were somehow activated -- seemingly approving of a string of defensive efforts that denied the Demons a certain goal. The Swans worked the ball to the city end and despite fumbling in their forward line ,it was to be their night. They got the ball over the top to Heeney, on his own in the goal square, and he made no mistake. In the end it was a 22-point win to the Swans. Thus seeing them earn a home Preliminary final at the SCG in two week's time. The Demons will host Brisbane back here in Melbourne next week.
For Sydney the standout was Callum Mills, contributing 23 disposals at 65 percent efficiency, 11 tackles, nine contested possessions, and four clearances. Steven May kept Buddy Franklin scoreless, a feat only ever achieved a handful of times through his career. It did not hurt the Swans who had four multiple goal scorers, and ten goal scorers in total, making Buddy the ultimate decoy and somehow reducing May's overall influence.
MELBOURNE: 4.1 5.4 10.5 10.9 (69) SYDNEY: 2.3 6.4 12.5 14.7 (91) GOALS Melbourne: Fritsch 3, Oliver 2, Brown, Gawn, Pickett, Spargo, Sparrow Sydney: Hayward 2, Lloyd 2, Papley 2, Reid 2, Heeney, Hickey, Mills, Parker, Rowbottom, Stephens BEST Melbourne: May, Oliver, Fritsch, Viney, Petracca, Langdon Sydney: Parker, Lloyd, Rowbottom, Mills, Papley, Fox INJURIES Melbourne: Petracca (leg) Sydney: Florent (ankle) Crowd 78,377
Article last changed on Sunday, September 04, 2022 - 1:36 PM EDT