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AFL: Mick McGowan breaks what goes wrong in Sydney’s repeated bad starts in the 2022 season


The numbers tell a painful truth for John Longmire and his swans.

This year, they not only won the fewest first quarters among the top eight teams, but also half as many as the next worst: St. Kilda, Geelong and Brisbane Lyons.

Longmayer’s men were worth their sixth win over the Gold Coast over the weekend with another slow and sloppy start, joining a quarter of the time lagging behind for the fifth time in eight rounds.

They won only the first two terms and were equal in the other.

This is an unacceptable record that Sydney players and coaches need to fix if they want to get scores in the top four, which many people, including me, thought they were capable of in 2022.

Camera iconSwans coach John Longmeyer, pictured left with Josh Kennedy, has to solve his side’s problems, which are starting slowly. Phil Hillard Credit: Supplied

The season lasts eight weeks, so the failed beginnings of “Swans” are now more of a trend than something that can be largely ignored.

This week, Longmayer talked about how they reviewed their training loads and looked for ways to keep his players in the freshest condition on game day after several six-day breaks.

That may be part of the problem, but perhaps their worst revelation this season came against Hawthorn in Round 6, when Sydney had 10 days between matches.

The Swans scored five unanswered goals within 16 minutes of the first siren that day before playing to announce a 41-point triumph.

This is another trend for red and whites – their ability to fight back.

But for every example the Hawks have others similar to the Suns and Bulldogs, where Sydney was forced to pay dearly for its lethargic start.

Swan training
Camera iconIsaac Heaney and the Swans will try to start better against Esendan. Phil Hillard Credit: Supplied

Swans complicate their lives for whatever reason, be it fatigue, attitude or just not turning on fast enough.

I have previously written about how important possession is in the dispute for Sydney’s success, which includes free kicks for and against, and many problems in the first quarter stem from this area.

In the first quarter of this year, the “Swans” ranked 16th in the difference in possession, but ranked fifth in the same indicator between the second and fourth members.

A similar disparity is also observed at confrontation points due to interruptions and differentials in clearance, but another finding is the lack of pressure they apply early.

Sydney missiles from the 12th to the first on pressure are applied when contrasting the first quarters with the rest of the games. It should be equal parts that cause anger and embarrassment for Longmayre and company.

Swan training
Camera iconThe return of Tom Hickey after a knee injury should help the Swans get back on track. Phil Hillard Credit: Supplied

I want to see how they focus on being “managed” from the start against Esendan this weekend.

This includes discipline – something that was a problem last week – maintaining structures and manic intentions.

My former coach, Lee Matthews, said the fastest players should lead in their defensive actions because they can physically do so.

On this side the Swans have no shortage of foot speed, from Justin McInerney to Chad Warner, Will Hayward and Olli Florent.

We know that in Sydney we need to be a strong team on key performance indicators, judging by what has happened in the last three quarters.

The challenge for Swans players is to show how much they want to be among the AFL elite.


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