WHERE AND WHEN: Metricon Stadium, Saturday July 28, 7.40pm
LAST TIME: Sydney Swans 15.16 (106) d Gold Coast 4.12 (36), round 16, 2011, at Metricon Stadium
Gold Coast play host to what is quickly becoming one of the toughest tasks in the AFL on Saturday night, the rampaging Sydney Swans. The young Suns have been vastly improved over the past three weeks, claiming their first victory for the season and going agonisingly close against the Brisbane Lions last weekend. Still, they’ll be hard pressed against a Swans side that has done it easily on the road this season
The Swans will be looking to notch up a strong victory to solidify their spot on the top of the ladder, looking to fend off any would be takers in the logjam that is the race for finals spots.
The Suns forward line has been one of their biggest worries since their inception and it is unlikely to get any better this weekend, facing one of the most miserly defenses in the AFL in the Swans. The likes of Ted Richards, Heath Grundy and Rhyce Shaw have kept opposition average scores to just over 70 per game this season and if this Gold Coast side is to do any damage they will need to find a way through.
These worries are compounded with the Suns horrible goal-kicking as of late, costing them the game against the Brisbane Lions (with a late set shot to Jared Brennan one of the main culprits) and leading to a conversion rate of under 40% over the past month. This is unacceptable, even from a young side, and they will need to take every chance they can get.
They lose experienced pickup Michael Rischitelli this weekend to injury, along with a rested Sam Day and a dropped Josh Hall, but welcome back the bustling Danny Stanley as well as Taylor Hine and Steven May.
Jarrad Harbrow plays his 100th AFL game and his rebound off the backline will be essential to a competitive team.
The Suns’ midfield is a scary future prospect and is even quite strong at present but it should prove no problem for the Swans. Relatively under the radar, as much as you can be at the top of the ladder, Sydney have quietly assembled one of the best midfields in the AFL and they are firing at all cylinders currently.
Josh P Kennedy was an early Brownlow favourite this season and was back to his inside, hard-hitting best against a Saints side that challenged them heavily. He is ably supported by the fantastic form of players like Kieran Jack, Daniel Hannebery and Jarrad McVeigh.
To further bolster this group they welcome back young Luke Parker who was in outstanding form earlier in the year. He comes in along with forward Trent Dennis-Lane who is replacing Andrejs Everitt. Shane Mumford’s knee, perhaps in a precautionary move, is being given the week off as well. Expect Mike Pyke to shoulder most of the ruck load with an occasional chop out from Lewis Roberts-Thomson.
Gary Ablett – Ablett has been unfairly criticised for being selfish and being a ‘sideshow’ to the Suns group, but will need to silence any remaining critics with a very strong performance if the Suns are to challenge at all. Before last weekend he had struggled against the Lions in recent times but broke out and won the Marcus Ashcroft medal for best afield in a losing side. A replication of those efforts – and a contribution on the scoreboard, are needed from the captain.
Lewis Jetta – By his lofty standards this season, Jetta has been relatively quiet over the past fortnight. With 37 goals for the season and some amazing pace and lead-up work he is quickly becoming one of the Swans’ most important players. Assuming he isn’t tagged and the attention goes to other Swans’ midfielders, he has a real opportunity to carve up the Suns and provide lethal thrusts forward. With percentage looming as a very important factor he could be key in the Swans kicking a big score.
It almost feels tempting to say there will be little to no contest in this match, but it’s likely the Suns will show bursts of talent and slam on goals in quick succession at certain points in the match. However, the sheer skill of the Swans’ backline and their goalkicking prowess from the midfield will prove to be far too much for the Suns to handle. Unfortunately they’ll have to wait another week for their first win at Metricon.
Swans by 60.
Gold Coast Suns
B: Maverick Weller, Steven May, Trent McKenzie
HB: Daniel Stanley, Matthew Warnock, Jarrod Harbrow
C: David Swallow, Gary Ablett, Matt Shaw
HF: Liam Patrick, Tom Lynch, Brandon Matera
F: Luke Russell, Jared Brennan, Campbell Brown
Foll: Zac Smith, Karmichael Hunt, Harley Bennell
I/C: Charlie Dixon, Taylor Hine, Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy
Emg: Sam Iles, Tom Hickey, Jackson Allen
In: Daniel Stanley, Taylor Hine, Steven May
Out: Michael Rischitelli (Knee), Sam Day (Rested), Josh Hall
Milestones: Jarrod Harbrow – 100 games
B: Rhyce Shaw, Heath Grundy, Alex Johnson
HB: Nicholas Smith, Ted Richards, Martin Mattner
C: Adam Goodes, Jude Bolton, Lewis Jetta
HF: Craig Bird, Sam Reid, Ben McGlynn
F: Jarrad McVeigh, Ryan O’Keefe, Lewis Roberts-Thomson
Foll: Mike Pyke, Josh P. Kennedy, Kieren Jack
I/C: Nick Malceski, Daniel Hannebery, Trent Dennis-Lane, Luke Parker
Emg: Jesse White, Andrejs Everitt, Tony Armstrong
In: Trent Dennis-Lane, Luke Parker
Out: Shane Mumford (Knee), Andrejs Everitt