The Sydney Swans kept their finals flame flickering with a victory over the Fremantle Dockers at Optus Stadium. The game was won by their stronger bodied midfielders setting up a four goal lead in the first quarter, which the Dockers couldn't to bridge. The Dockers fielded with the most inexperienced team in the competition, with only five players who have played more than 100 games. In total games played, the Sydney team had more than two thousand more games of experience and it was their experienced players who did what needed to be done to keep the Dockers from getting back into the game.
The Sydney Swans survived a stirring comeback by Collingwood to claim a one point victory in an epic Preliminary final overnight at a sold-out Sydney Cricket Ground. In front of 45,608 screaming fans, Sydney looked to have the game comfortably in its keeping when it went out to a six goal lead when Logan McDonald kicked a goal early in the third term. Collingwood however, as it has all season, refused to go away, kicking three of the next four goals to remain within striking distance heading into the final stanza.
The Magpies resurgence coincided with an injury to the most potent forward on the ground in Sam Reid, the Sydney forward suffering a groin injury that sent him to the bench for the rest of the game - and potentially missing next weekend’s Grand Final against a red hot Geelong.
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.
Round 22 was full of stories. There was heartbreak in Adelaide as the Crows and Power likely blew their chance at playing finals, but there were also two of the season’s greatest games played between four of the league’s best teams. Both of those incredible games were physical, skillful contests that came down to one kick for goal that separated the winners from the losers. Brisbane’s last gasp win over Geelong in front of a rampant Lions home crowd came courtesy of a potential “Mark of the Year” by Lincoln McCarthy who goaled for a one point win, while it was Richmond’s favorite rascal in Jack Riewoldt who snapped truly to give his Richmond team a meritorious win against a gallant West Coast Eagles on Sunday at the MCG. All four teams will no doubt play a big part in September.
Other big winners in a stunning round of footy were the Western Bulldogs who followed up 21 consecutive goals the previous week against Essendon with a dozen in a row against a disappointing Greater Western Sydney who let their home fans down.
The Fremantle Dockers defeated the Sydney Swans by the smallest of margins to keep Fremantle's slim chance of making the finals alive. The Swans bowed out of the finals race last week, a rare event for the Swans. It is even rarer for it to happen with six matches to play. The Dockers' season was hanging on by the thread of statistical possibility, but it was the Swans who played as if they were desperate to make the finals. The Dockers played like a team that finally got desperate.
Collingwood survived a scare from Carlton before powering home to another win, Geelong cruised to victory over the Kangaroos and the West Coast Eagles took care of business on the road against Saint Kilda in a round eight that once again had its share of upsets.
The biggest loser of the weekend was undoubtedly the Greater Western Sydney Giants who once again struggled to get going at the MCG, going down to a masterful Hawthorn by 33 points.
An extended round six kicked off with the unusual Wednesday night game that saw Richmond victorious by 43 points over the struggling Melbourne Demons. The Anzac Day battle between Collingwood and Essendon was a classic that ended with the Magpies hanging on to win by four points in controversial circumstances as the Bombers fell just short of pulling off a great comeback. Brisbane, Port Adelaide, Fremantle and the Giants took care of business as expected while Carlton almost pulled off back to back victories before succumbing by just five points to a frantic Hawthorn down in Tasmania.
Sydney Swans vs Greater Western Sydney Giants (SCG)
STATE OF PLAY:
Expect a fiery encounter as the cross-town rivals will leave nothing in the tank in this do or die elimination final. With the game being played at the SCG, you would usually think it was advantage Swans, but 2018 has been no cakewalk for Sydney when playing at home - where they in fact have a 5-6 record at a ground that in the past has been somewhat of a fortress.
With just one round to be played before the finals series begins, the top eight is finally taking shape, but there is still plenty to be decided with some big match-ups in the final round. The big winner out of round 22 was Melbourne, which finished strongly against the West Coast Eagles in Perth to book their first finals appearance in 12 seasons, much to the relief of Coach Simon Goodwin. Last year the Demons crashed out of the race late in 2017. Collingwood strengthened its hold on a top four finish with a big win over Port Adelaide at the MCG, effectively ending Port’s finals campaign in the process.
Boris Kilpatrick, special to AFANA from Australia
Round eight gave the football public some classic matches, making a mockery of those in the media who have been complaining that the overall standard of the AFL is trending downward. It started with a brilliant contest between Hawthorn and Sydney at the MCG on Friday night with the Swans storming home to take the win after it looked like the Hawks had the game won.