2004 05 28 - Robbie Ando - What I Reckon - WHERE DID IT GO SO WRONG?

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DATE: 05/28/2004

This season got off to a fantastic start, with the Swans winning 3 out of its first 4 - the only loss being by 2 points to the Lions at the GABBA. Things were looking good, moreso after we thrashed the Kangaroos in Canberra after giving away a 5 goal start. From that sunny day in Canberra, to the lucky one point win against Hawks, we have not only gone from Top 4 champions to middle of the road hacks. The question is why and where did it go wrong?

The season started with so much hope and promise, after all we were only six months removed from coming within a quarter of making a Grand Final and the added bonus of our so-called "rebuilding" meant that the kids we played last season would be ready to further step up another level, become important players in the team and fill the few needs we had down back and in the midfield to cover the retirement of Cressa. We were all hopeful, some more than others. However that wasn’t to hide the fact we all expected to at least finish Top 4 and then hope for the best come September, just like we did last year.

After starting so well in the first four rounds things started to really get exciting. Comments such as “could this year be our year?” or “this has to be one of the best Swans side ever to take the field” started to fill the message board. However the next week we came back to earth with the 3 goal loss to the Demons at Telstra Stadium. From there things went from bad (the umpiring in the Essendon loss) to worst (the passion-less last quarter effort against the Tigers). All of a sudden we had lost 4 in a row.

Why had things gone the way of the Dodo? Well the answer simply in my mind was that all of a sudden the players were suffering from a lack of confidence. They did not have the same amount of faith in the game plan that they had last season, in a way a by-product of the lack of confidence. Add to that a poor run of injuries meant that for each match a handful of key players either played injured, thus impacting on the game and resulting in them not living up to the standards they set last season, or key players missing too many games though injury.

To lose your only real Full Back option for such a long period of time hurts no matter how well the replacement plays. Losing Andrew Schauble has hurt. Its has meant that other players such as Leo Barry have been unable to play in their normal position, thus impacting on the game plan. With Leo in particular, his run off half back has been missing as he has been asked to play on players he normally wouldn’t line up on. After all, playing on Matthew Lloyd isn’t something he would enjoy greatly.

What has also hurt, yet hasn’t been given the same amount of coverage is the injuries to our forwards. While Barry Hall and Ryan O’Keefe enjoy career best form, the rest of the forward line has suffered with injuries. This of course has meant that not once this season have we seen Hall, O’Loughlin, O’Keefe, Schneider and Davis line up together at one time. This has then put that little extra pressure on those still in the forward lineup and the midfield as well to kick goals to cover the injuries. What hurts even more is that we aren’t even getting the same return from Ball, Goodes and Doyle as our resting ruckman playing out of the goalsquare as we did last season. Over the course of a season all these little things up forward really do add up.

As much as its easy to blame injuries and a lack of confidence for our poor form, its not the only reason. The lack of form from some of our top players hasn’t helped. This is the case in the midfield. While players such as Kirk, Crouch and Mathews are putting up better performance than last season, you have players such as Paul Williams, Jude Bolton and Tadhg Kennelly who are clearly down on form. Williams doesn’t seem to have the same impact going forward as he did last season and in fact I can‘t even recall him kicking a goal on the burst from outside 50. Is he spending too much time sweeping across half back or is he just getting old. Because while he is still finding the ball, he just isn’t having any impact. Jude Bolton on the other hand is down on form because he just isn’t getting his hand on the ball in the packs like he did last season and this is despite all the effort he puts in going for it, which I believe is even better than ever. Could it be he is trying too hard at that part of his game? Hopefully the goal on Sunday will give him the boost he needs.

Despite what many will say about me singling out Willo and Jude, please understand that all I’m trying to point out is that these guys need to regain their form from last season to become the match winners for us that we know they are capable of being. I would just love to see Jude and Willo become as damaging as they were last season. If they do, well problem solved. God knows the midfield needs them to lift, because we are getting killed through there week in and week out. Even though we won on Sunday it sure as hell wasn’t down to the midfield putting in a collective effort. Too many are coasting on the efforts from last season and I think its about time these guys were given a wake up call, be it a blast from Roos or a week or two in Canberra.

Despite the bad run of form we aren’t too far away from being a competitive side. Once we get Schauble, Schneider and Davis back into the side and fully fit, we’ll hopefully be well placed for a run at the finals, hell a bit of luck over the next three weeks and we’ll be back in thing better than many believed possible. We just need to get back to basics and get a fully fit Best 22 on the park and things should hopefully pick up.

You know it makes sense

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