Swans start strong, seek four-quarter effort

AS Sydney headed into half-time of their practice match against AFL Women’s premiership contender Collingwood, the Swans lead by nine points. It has been somewhat of a remarkable half of action from the red and whites considering their lack of experience compared to their opponents. Unfortunately for the home team, it would not last, but there were still plenty of positives to take out of the five-goal loss for coach Scott Gowans.

“We dropped off in that second half, being a young side who is learning how tough AFLW is, it’s going to take us on a bit of a journey,” Gowans said to the Swans Media.

“When Collingwood got momentum in that second half, we were struggling to stop it and that’s something we will be working on next week – what do we do, what are the mechanisms we can use just around things like communication, on-field leadership as far as the collective group, players being able to get their teammates up and going, those types of things.”

Though Sydney was leading at half-time, the scoreboard did not quite tell the full story. Indeed the first term was a genuine contest and the newcomers – with goals through Rebecca Privitelli and youngster Cynthia Hamilton looked incredibly dangerous when they could get it to the danger zone close to goal. They had gone toe-for-toe with the well-oiled and cohesive Magpies, a side that the Swans will take on in Round 2, but down at Victoria Park.

At Blacktown International Sportspark, it was the Swans who took a surprise lead at half-time, after weathering a barrage of forward 50 entries by the Magpies, and Collingwood squandered a number of gettable opportunities. Sabrina Frederick and Chloe Molloy both missed chances they would normally gobble up, and the ball mostly lived in that half of the ground. To Sydney’s credit, the defence – which included the likes of Ella Heads, Eliza Vale and Alexia Hamilton weathered that storm. Then they got the Magpies with a mighty counterpunch.

Two rare inside 50s in the space of a couple of minutes saw incredible goals to both Lisa Steane and Ally Morphett who both dared to dream and the Swans headed into half-time with a 4.1 (25) to 2.4 (16) lead. Unfortunately for the home team, that would change in the second half, with a 39-point turnaround as the Magpies piled on 6.4 (40) to 0.1 (1) after the main break.

Gowans said that first half was particularly impressive, first from an offensive standpoint, then a defensive one, and it was just about building that four-quarter consistency coming into the season in just over a week.

“The big thing is, that’s what we have worked on (pressure), ball movement and team offence,” Gowans said.

“We have touched on team defence but not a lot and it showed so that it’s something we need to spend more time on but I was really pleased with that first half. I thought there were some really good elements to it, clearances, time in forward half etc.

“At the end of the day it comes down to playing four quarters and against GWS we played two good ones and we have played another two good ones today but we have two weeks now to try and put four together before we play the Saints.”

Lauren Szigeti tries to run past Sabrina Frederick | Image credit: Jason McCawley/AFL Photos

Sydney did make a number of changes at half-time and moved around the magnets to give everyone an opportunity to test themselves and put their hand up for Round 1. In the midfield, Montana Ham was outstanding in the first half, while Lauren Szigeti battled away throughout the game, and the Hamilton sisters both had moments at respective ends, with Cynthia getting some onball minutes late.

“We played the whole squad that was available today,” Gowans said.

“That probably didn’t help us as there were five changes at half time which is a really tough thing to do but what it did was give us a really good idea for Round 1. That’s probably what the practice match is more about, but we also need to practice winning….. so you cant have everything as a coach.”

Now Sydney will gear up for its Round 1 match against St Kilda at North Sydney Oval on Saturday, August 27, before another bout against the Magpies eight days later on Sunday, September 4 at Victoria Park.

“You can see the girls smiles on their faces when they heard the song and the crowd clapped, that’s just a taste of what it’s going to be like in Round 1 and I hope all the members and fans get along because the girls are enjoyable to watch,” Gowans said. “I hope people can see that it’s going to be a bit of a journey but what a good thing to be there from the start of the story and follow it through.”

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