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Opposing Threat: Sydney

Despite winning six matches in a row before the bye, the Sydney Swans have struggled to find any real consistency in their football this season.

Sliding from second to fifth on the ladder after two losses this past fortnight, a finals berth is far from secure given the likes of Melbourne, Geelong, Hawthorn and North are all hot on the Swans’ tails.  

Sunday’s match proves crucial to Sydney’s 2018 campaign, as a loss could see it fall as far as ninth.

Star-studded injury list

At a time of the year when you want your best players on the park each week, injuries to some key Swans looks set to make its race to the finals that little bit harder.

Isaac Heeney (concussion), Callum Mills (foot), Tom Papley (hip) and Gary Rohan (hamstring) all missed their side’s Round 16 clash with Geelong, but have now been joined by a trio of stars following the 12-point loss to the Cats.

Veteran Jarrad McVeigh (collarbone) and three-time All-Australian Dan Hannebery (calf) are both set to miss this weekend’s clash with North, and experienced midfielder Kieren Jack (knee) will be in a race against time to prove his fitness.

Having played last Thursday night, then ten day break will give Jack a good amount of time to get his body match-fit, but given his age and potential importance to the side later in the season, it may not be worth the risk.

Sam Reid (achilles) and Lewis Melican (hamstring), both best 22 players, have undergone surgery in recent days, which rules them out for the 2018 season.

In better news for Sydney, Heeney is a good chance to return, but its depth will no doubt be tested in the coming weeks.

Buddy

He’s one of, if not the, greatest player of the modern era and is arguably at the peak of his powers in 2018.

In his fifth-year at the Swans, Buddy Franklin has lived up to the enormous hype that surrounded his historic deal, and is currently sitting second in the Coleman Medal race behind North’s Ben Brown.

He’s the primary avenue to goal for Sydney; for most teams, relying on one player to kick most of their goals wouldn’t be sustainable, but when it’s Franklin, it works.

The 31-year-old ranks first in marks inside 50 per game, which gives him high percentage opportunities in front of goal, and despite some wayward kicking at times, he’s still averaging just over three goals per game.

Coming off two bags of four majors against good sides in Geelong and Richmond, Franklin is in red-hot form, and will need to sustain that if he’s to play in his third finals series in as many years.

Half-back dominance

Sydney is ranked second in rebound 50s per game, which is no surprise given the talent that lines up across its half-back line.

Averaging 43.1 this season, the trio of Jake Lloyd, Dane Rampe and Zak Jones have formed a formidable wall across the Swans defensive 50.

24-year-old Lloyd has taken his game to another level this season, averaging 27.9 disposals per game, and sitting first amongst the competition in total kicks, third in metres gained and fourth in disposal efficiency and rebound 50s per game.

Rampe has played an effective role on the second key forward most weeks, but has also been damaging offensively, sitting just outside the top ten in rebound 50s per game.

Although Jones’ numbers aren’t as impressive as his counterparts’, his role in the side cannot be undervalued.

 
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs