From cygnets to signalling their arrival: Swans claim finals place

AN ever-threatening Swans outfit broke the shackles of the Dockers late to herald a coda for an astounding 2023 turnaround after season seven’s win-less campaign. The victory shook down a cathartic thunder and sets up a tantalising first finals berth against the Suns.

To the credit of the 13th-placed purple team, despite being well shot of even mathematical chances at playing at the pointy end, their intensity could hardly be faulted all game. As has so often been the case since she made her delayed debut for Fremantle, Kiara Bowers shouldered the majority of the midfield burden.

‘Turbo’ ended with 22 touches, an equal game-high seven clearances and an eye-watering 18 tackles – five clear of her nearest opponent and 10 from any teammates. But Bowers has played more superlative and effective matches, especially in the west; a not insignificant reason why was Sydney’s Tanya Kennedy.

Kennedy may not occupy the lofty heights of fellow first-year Swan Chloe Molloy when it comes to the season’s story, but the versatile defender kept Bowers in check while racking up a career-best 13 kicks alongside six intercept possessions, two inside 50s and four score involvements.

Speaking of Molloy, the possible favourite for the AFLW best and fairest played a good if not great game and still ended up scoring 2.1 from 14 touches. That the former Pie also led the list for score involvements and bobbed up at full back to steady the ship reinforces to the notion that her current and former coach Scott Gowans clearly values her utilitarian intangibles and ‘one-percenters’ as much as the highlight reel stuff.

In the wash up of the clash, what was evident and telling was a finals-like intensity to proceedings until the dam wall broke in the final term. Commentators remarked that at times the battle between the arcs resembled a tennis match, such was the harried defence of contested ball coming in and rushed disposal under real or perceived duress going back the other way. For the home side, Laura Pugh and skipper Hayley Miller stood out in the chaos, as did Rebecca Privitelli, Laura Gardiner and Eliza Vale for the red and white.

The true game-breaker came from Makaela Tuhakaraina however; her sublime step into line-breaking run was a real diamond in the rough and tumble moment. The play of the day put the ball into Miller’s hands who got a shot off under duress which promptly held up centimetres before the goalmouth. Tuhakaraina was still in the action and followed up with a gather and close range shot at goal which was stymied by the body of the goal umpire who then added salt to the wound by signalling a behind.

It wasn’t the only controversial incident involving the adjudicators either; later on Molloy tried her own method of tearing the game apart with a 35-metre dash off the half back line – unfortunately she forgot to bounce the ball, but fortunately for the Swans, the umpire also forgot to blow the whistle.

In the end neither decision really mattered as Sydney played to their ball-moving strengths via a more traditional rejigged wing formation and ran out fairly comfortable winners befitting the ladder gap between the two sides.

The result ended a disappointing Fremantle season that never really got going, despite some early wins over lowly West Coast and Hawthorn and a shock defeat of Richmond away, while the Swans join Essendon as finalists in their second rodeos – just one season longer than their next opponents Gold Coast who were humbled in the first week of finals by a golden-era Dockers side in their debut season.

With the way both teams are playing now, it would be a brave move to suggest a similar scenario is on the cards; it looks like a potential cracking contest in the offing.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments