• Sydney vs Carlton - Elimination Final

    When I put my hand up to write this week's match report, it was with the knowledge that it could turn out to be a eulogy to the football coaching and playing careers of Roos and Kirk. On the other hand, there was a good chance it would turn out to be a celebration of yet another pounding of the Blues on home turf. There were times during Sunday's game where I had started to write both versions in my head.

    In the end the game turned out to be neither of these, but rather an addition to the now substantial tome of nail-biting, gut wrenching, emotional roller-coaster riding experiences that the Swans have served up over the past 15 or so seasons.

    So where does this game sit compared to The Day Nick Davis Came To Save Us, to Plugger And His Mighty Groin, to The Day The Power Went Out, or to the various incarnations of Where Eagles Dare (To Tread)? With the passing of time, I have little doubt it will find its spot on the top shelf, comfortably sitting next to those classics. Yet, whereas for those aforementioned games I can still recall the roar of the crowd, the ebbs and flows of the game, and my emotional ride as if they were played just yesterday, this one is very much a blur. Or not so much a blur as a numbness. Maybe it is because this appeared to be one of the more straightforward assignments the Bloods have tackled in finals. They were the form team, had comfortably accounted for Carlton just a few weeks earlier, and were facing an opponent on the rebound from a taxing trip to Subi. Even if the nagging doubts were there before the opening bounce, surely Swans fans could not be blamed for feeling comfortable - complacent even - with a four goal lead at half-time and the knowledge that the team looked slick and mentally switched on. Or maybe it was because when the game turned on its head, and a first round exit began to look inevitable, that Roos' tenure was to end in such a disappointing fashion was an unpalatable thought.

    Even having watched numerous replays of at least parts of the game, I am still not quite sure what to make of it. Which is why it has taken until Thursday night to put fingers to keyboard, in the knowledge that we've all moved onto the debate of whether Bevo is stiff, ROK's groin will hold up, and whether Bradshaw and McGlynn can stand firm on their returns from serious injury.

    What I have now come to realise - not so apparent watching the game live - is that Carlton played a terrific game of footy and had they got over the line, they would have been worthy winners. Certainly the third quarter was their highlight - a relentless attack on the Sydney defence orchestrated by Judd but with plenty of support. But apart from the first ten minutes, when they let Sydney do much as they pleased, the Blues matched the Swans step for step, wrenching back control on several occasions when it looked like the Swans were gaining ascendency, and dominating for periods without getting reward on the scoreboard. I almost feel sorry for them that they had to lose - but then I remember they are Carlton and come to my senses.

    So if the Blues can be justified in rueing a lost opportunity, does that make the Swans lucky to survive to week two? Not at all. They served up a compelling mix of skill and cohesion at times, and at others, desparate grit to hold strong against the barrage. Where did they find the will and the energy to fight back in that final term? I have no idea but certainly the final quarter should go down as a classic. It took almost five minutes of playing time before they forced the ball past the centre line, and in that time, both Waite and Henderson had squandered opportunities to kill off the Swans' resolve. When the ball miraculously did find its way to the right end of the ground, and they looked to have a chance to draw level, Jack's speculative shot agonisingly clunked into the post. Oh no! Did they have it in them to create another goal scoring opportunity?

    We now know they did, and that foray forward proved to be the catalyst for the Swans seemingly regaining momentum and control. The goals to Dennis Lane and O'Keefe were the result of graft, persistence and maybe the lucky fall of the ball, rather than free-flowing skill but suddenly the Swans were winning more of the clearances and their legs had returned. Yet the game still had more twists and turns to come, Carlton found renewed energy, and both Simpson and Judd had chances to draw Carlton level again, before Dennis Lane's now famous tackle and conversion seemed to have sealed a Sydney win. Still there was more to come. Henderson's boot on the goal line and strong mark moments later brought Carlton back to a deficit of less than a goal. Given how Sydney had struggled to kick-in effectively for the whole game, can anyone claim not to have their heart in their mouth in those final few seconds? When the ball fell fortuitously into Malceski's hands and an exhausted Hannebery chased the long kick up the ground, trailing Carazzo by too many yards, there was still a chance the ball might come back. All credit to the young star for finding just enough to lock up the ball until help could arrive. And then the ultimate help arrived in the form of that blessed final siren.

    While the earlier finals classics are usually remembered for individual efforts, be it Leo Barry's mark, Magic's goal, Plugger's kick, Kirky's rebound from Pickett's shirtfront and - of course - Davis' miracles - this one deserves to be remembered as the ultimate team effort. Sure, Dennis Lane's tackle and goal will be replayed for many a year to come, but each and every player had a moment or two in that final quarter which deserves to be lauded - Moore's wonderful tackle on the Blues' 50m line, Jesse's handball into the path of TDL, Hanners' desparate chase at the close of the game, a strong contested mark from Goodes, endless darts out of defence from Mattner and Kennelly, some wondrous touches from Pyke...the list goes on.

    And now the farewell tour moves on down to Melbourne. Whether it lasts for one week or three, we can bask in the satisfaction of a season of achievement, a season where the team has clearly moved forward, a season where three or four future young stars may well have been unearthed, and a season surely befitting the end of the Roos era.

    SYDNEY 6.6 11.8 11.11 14.15 (99)
    CARLTON 4.3 7.8 12.12 13.16 (94)

    Goals: Sydney: T Dennis-Lane 4 P Bevan 3 R Shaw 2 A Goodes J Moore J White L Jetta R O'Keefe. Carlton: A Walker 3 J Waite 3 J Garlett 2 L Henderson 2 R Warnock 2 M Murphy.

    Best: Sydney: J Kennedy A Goodes J McVeigh T Dennis-Lane N Smith K Jack. Carlton: C Judd J Russell A Carrazzo R Hadley J Waite M Murphy.

    Umpires: Stephen McBurney, Scott Jeffery, Shane McInerney.
    Official Crowd: 41,596 at ANZ Stadium.
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. ScottH's Avatar
      ScottH -
      Thanks Liz,
      Great read as usual.
    1. dimelb's Avatar
      dimelb -
      Quote Originally Posted by ScottH View Post
      Thanks Liz,
      Great read as usual.
      +1. I think you're absolutely right to give due credit to Carlton. Especially in the 3Q this was the team that razzed Geelong. I've said elsewhere that the Carlton combination of ruckmen and midfielders is very good, better imo than the Bulldogs, and the fact we could match it with them gives me a bit more confidence going into the semifinal on Sunday. But what a gripping, lurching, seesawing game it was: a true finals classic.
    1. ugg's Avatar
      ugg -
      Great write-up, reading it was almost as enjoyable as the watching game itself. It captured the vicissitudes of the game, and in particular the last quarter, very succinctly.
    1. ShockOfHair's Avatar
      ShockOfHair -
      Beautifully written, Liz.

      I really agree about the team effort. One of those games when everyone played a part.
    1. alison.z's Avatar
      alison.z -
      Love the report ... Worth the wait
    1. gumby_bolts's Avatar
      gumby_bolts -
      Thanks Liz, an enjoyable and enlightening read as usual. Now go get some sleep.
    1. Jesse Richards's Avatar
      Jesse Richards -
      Thanks Liz. Spot on.
    1. Dalai Lama's Avatar
      Dalai Lama -
      thumbs up from the Lama
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