WHERE AND WHEN: AAMI Stadium, Saturday September 8, 2.45pm
LAST TIME: Adelaide 15.9 (99) defeated Sydney Swans 14.10 (94) round six, 2012 at the SCG
Although most eyes at this stage of the week seem to be set firmly on Friday night’s Hawthorn and Collingwood duel, there is a titanic rumbling already forming under the grounds of AAMI Stadium. In what promises to be a fierce and intense clash, the Sydney Swans and the Adelaide Crows are set to do battle for a spot in the preliminary final on Saturday afternoon.
It seems that although these two clubs are finally gaining some well earned recognition for outstanding seasons, it could be said that they are still not firmly on the radar of the footballing world. This will all change for one of these sides when the final siren goes.
For fans of hard, uncomprimising football this game is going to be an absolute treat. Sydney are ranked #1 for contested possessions in the AFL, Adelaide #2. Both sides have genuine Brownlow contenders, flashy stars, brilliant goalsneaks and stonewall backlines. Add to this the added tempo, pressure and overall gravitas of finals football and we’re set for a cracker.
Both sides have questions on their formlines coming into the clash. Sydney couldn’t punch at their weight during a powerful Geelong performance at Simonds Stadium, losing them the home ground advantage. That was their second loss in a row. Adelaide have easily accounted for Melbourne and the Gold Coast Suns leading up to the finals, but are teams so far below them really the way to prepare for such an imposing opponent?
Adelaide are favourites for this game, and for good reason. They’ve accounted for the Swans in four of their last five meetings, including a hard fought 5 point victory at the SCG earlier this year. One wouldn’t say that Adelaide have the wood over Sydney, but they know how to play them, even in their down-times. Another huge strike against the Swans is the loss of key defender Heath Grundy, meaning if both of the big Adelaide power-forwards Kurt Tippett and Taylor Walker play their defense will be stretched.
That’s not all Sydney has to worry about in their backline. Mature goalsneak Ian Callinan and defender cum forward Graham Johncock both bagged 4 goals last weekend, which will give them confidence leading into the contest. They also have the likes of Jared Petrenko and Jason Porplyzia – noted medium forwards who can kick goals at will given the opportunity. Add to that their goal-kicking midfield, with Patrick Dangerfield averaging a goal a game and centre general Scott Thompson hitting the scoreboard in recent weeks. It all adds up to one big headache.
The Swans can shift Lewis Roberts-Thomson into the backline and will most likely welcome the return of Nick Smith – one of the most unheralded and effective small defenders in the league. Their defense is typically miserly and they don’t often allow big scores. But even if, hypothetically, that part of the game is sorted out, there’s still the issue of what they are to do up forward themselves.
Key forward Sam Reid is tipped to come back, but if he doesn’t their options aren’t promising. Mitch Morton has been absolutely dominating at NEAFL level this year but wasn’t able to clinch a spot when given a chance in the seniors. Tommy Walsh, the Irish forward traded from St Kilda, kicked a solitary goal and was unconvincing in their loss to Geelong last weekend. Roberts-Thomson has crafted a solid forward presence but as mentioned before, will most likely needed down back. Sydney will be praying Reid is fine, and that if he is he has a strong game.
On the plus-side Adam Goodes has been hovering around good form as of late and should be able to hold down the roaming centre half-forward spot, while if Lewis Jetta and an option like Trent Dennis-Lane can fire they do have the ability to kick a winning score.
The midfield battle is going to be brutal and there should be no expectation either of these teams will let up. They rarely have all year and cannot afford to with a week off and a home final on the line. Josh P.Kennedy has gotten back to his amazing form that he found earlier in the season, while Jarrad McVeigh and Kieran Jack are very strong supports. Daniel Hannebery is an interesting case, having come out this week speaking about how he owes his team-mates for his performance in the Swans’ finals campaign last season.
I felt I let a few guys down by not being able to fill my role for the whole game and play the way I wanted to play.
In the back of my mind I was hoping I’d be right, but subconsciously I knew I wasn’t 100 per cent.
It does give you a bit of fire in the belly to want to give back this finals series.
-Daniel Hannebery on ‘letting down’ his team-mates.
Hannebery is in career-best form and this added incentive will hopefully lead to a spectacular performance.
Have Adelaide got it?
On the flip-side, Adelaide know they can match the Swans. Not only have they done it this year, but Patrick Dangerfield just keeps getting better and better. He’s heavily talked about to be thereabouts come Brownlow night and has not dropped off one iota leading into the finals series. Scott Thompson is another Brownlow contender for the Crows who is an accumulator, but a tough, damaging one. In this case the accumulator tag is more of a worrying sign for the Swans rather than the backhanded compliment it sometimes seems to be. Rory Sloane has also been fantastic and adds pace and X-factor to a powerful midfield setup.
Daniel Talia – The recently crowned Rising Star will get his first taste of finals football and will no doubt be drooling at the opportunity. Nicknamed ‘Presti’ by his team-mates for his ability to constantly spoil and shut down opposition forwards, he may prove to be a real handful and will no doubt heavily limit one of the Swans few real forward options.
Adam Goodes – It’s time to shine, Goodesy. He has been slowly working his way back into form but needs to fast track it this week. He needs to provide a presence, kick goals and constantly impact the contest. There’s no ifs or buts about it – the veteran needs to shine.
Adelaide have heard cries of ‘soft draw’ all season. Swans have heard cries of ‘overperforming’ all season. This weekend, one of them will make a preliminary final. With the home ground advantage, powerful forward-line and the Swans missing Grundy, it’s hard to go against Adelaide. But there is no doubt that this one will be an epic until the final siren – the hope for the winner will be that the toll it takes does not make it a pyrrhic victory.
Adelaide by 12 points.