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There were a few moments on Saturday that summed up Sydney’s miserable AFL season thus far.
The first came barely five minutes into their clash with Fremantle when co-captain Callum Mills came off with a calf injury, taking yet another defensively minded option off John Longmire’s whiteboard. There aren’t many left. It set the tone for the day.
Swans players show their disappointment after the loss to Fremantle.Credit: Getty
Another came at the very start of the third quarter as the Swans valiantly attempted to claw back a two-goal half-time deficit. Lance Franklin was awarded a mark just in front of the goal square and would have converted if he had waited to take his set shot.
Instead, he tried to play on when Alex Pearce handed him back the ball, but before he knew it he was gang-tackled and pinged for holding the ball. For the second week in a row, he went goalless.
Nothing seems to be going Sydney’s way at the moment. A lot of it is down to personnel, but not all of it. This 17-point defeat was their fourth in a row, which is their worst run of losses in almost three years and as strong a sign as any that their hopes and dreams will not be realised this campaign.
In front of 28,927 at the SCG, the usual energy was sorely lacking on and off the field. Two consolation goals at the death from Tom Papley, who was playing his 150th game, and Hayden McLean made the final scoreboard – 16.7 (103) to 13.8 (86) – look much kinder than the match actually was.
You can search for little rays of light, but the injury clouds keep blocking the way. It wasn’t only Mills who went down against Freo.
Nate Fyfe (left) gives Caleb Serong a hug after his dominant performance.Credit: Getty
Key forward Logan McDonald, who was one of the few fit talls left on their list, rolled his ankle in the opening stages of the second quarter, tried to play on but couldn’t. His afternoon was done early in the third, leaving the Swans a man short on the bench for the remainder.
In the continued absence of co-captain Dane Rampe and the McCartin brothers, the Dockers dined out, and Luke Jackson seized an opportunity to answer his critics with an eye-catching three-goal haul. Lachie Schultz had four.
But it all stemmed from the contest, where Caleb Serong (33 disposals, eight clearances) led the way. The hosts were left badly wanting in this area. They were beaten soundly in contested possessions (157-141) and centre clearances (20-8), and the returning Tom Hickey was smashed in the ruck by Jackson and Sam Darcy.
When Sydney did try to go forward, there was either nobody to aim for or the kicks were aimless. An ageing Franklin could not hold down the fort on his own, and his hopes of playing finals in his last season are now hanging by a thread.
The Swans actually kicked the first three goals of the match, but a completely different Fremantle – quicker, slicker and more efficient – emerged after quarter-time and the game changed.
They booted six goals for the term as the Swans began to lose their bottle and gave away two 50-metre penalty goals in two minutes.
The Dockers then turned the screws. Their lead blew out to as much as 31 points in the third quarter until a blitz initiated by the brilliant Errol Gulden (39 disposals, eight clearances, two goals) helped the Swans briefly rediscover their spark and claw back to within 10 points.
But that’s all it was: a spark. Fremantle held their nerve, provided the adequate response, and it was all over.
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