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The Preview: Round 17, 2018

Mitchell Jones  July 12, 2018 6:44 PM

Storyline

It’s arguably the match of the round, and understandably so given the benefits four points would have in both North and Sydney’s pursuit of a finals berth.

For North, a gritty win over the Suns last Sunday saw it remain ninth on the ladder by percentage, meaning a win over the Swans could see it go as high as fifth if results fall the right way.

When it comes to Sydney, back-to-back losses since the bye have seen it fall from second to fifth, and if that trend continues, the Swans could find themselves outside the top eight.

It’s an old fashioned eight-point game, and one that is certainly worth the wait.

Coleman Medal shootout

It’s not often the competition’s two leading goal-kickers line up in the same game, but footy fans will be in for a treat, when Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin and Ben Brown go head-to-head on Sunday.

Brown (46 goals), who leads the Coleman Medal race by seven majors over Franklin (39 goals), is in red-hot form, coming off the back of a four goal performance against an impressive Rory Thompson.

There were question marks surrounding Brown’s potential output in the lead-up to last weekend’s match given both Jarrad Waite and Mason Wood were absent, but the 25-year-old silenced any sceptics with three majors in the first quarter.

With Nick Larkey a chance to make his first senior appearance of 2018 on Sunday, Brown may have another tall target to partner up with.

Franklin’s output this season has been nothing short of outstanding, averaging over three goals per match, the most of any player in the competition.

Despite being 31-years-old, his athleticism, strength and natural talent hasn’t wavered in the slightest, and he’s still considered one of, if not the, most dangerous forwards in the league.

He’s the main target inside forward 50 for the Swans, and a on-song Franklin will often lead to an on-song Sydney, which is why limiting the impact of ‘Buddy’ will be such a focus for North’s defenders.

Rucks to prove crucial

The last time Todd Goldstein and Callum Sinclair went head-to-head, it was Goldstein who walked-away with the bragging rights after beating his opponent in the hit-out stakes, 40 to 27.

Sinclair, who has been one of the most improved players in the competition this season, has been a revelation for the Swans, featuring in all 15 matches this season and playing a significant amount of game time.

Todd Goldstein’s past month of football has arguably been his best in recent years, getting the better of Jarrad Witts, Tom Bellchambers and Tom Boyd in the stoppages, but also winning his fair share of football around the ground, averaging 18 disposals in that period.

With two star-studded midfields at their feet, ruck dominance will be crucial in how the game pans out, because providing first use to the likes of Shaun Higgins and Ben Cunnington or Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker will go a long way towards a win.

No home ground advantage

Despite the clash set to be held at Etihad Stadium, the confines of the roof is unlikely to benefit either side.

It’s North’s home ground, and it will be its fifth match under the roof in six games and its ninth appearance at the stadium this season, but won’t prove any significant advantage.

The Roos have won over 50% of their fixtures there this season, but for the Swans, Etihad Stadium has been a happy hunting ground despite it being interstate.

Sydney has won 14 of its past 16 matches at the ground, dating back to the start of the 2012 season, which is an outstanding record for a ground it rarely plays.

The home side will be pleased by the fact the Swans most recent outing at the ground came in Round 15 in a 26-point loss to Richmond.

Sydney team

B Dane Rampe, Heath Grundy, Nick Smith
HB Jake Lloyd, Aliir Aliir, Robbie Fox
C Will Hayward, Josh P Kennedy, Oliver Florent
HF Harry Cunningham, Lance Franklin, George Hewett
F Tom Papley, Tom McCartin, Ben Ronke
FOL Callum Sinclair, Luke Parker, Isaac Heeney
I/C Darcy Cameron, Zak Jones, Harry Marsh, Nic Newman, Colin O'Riordan, Daniel Robinson, Gary Rohan, Dean Towers

In: Tom Papley, Isaac Heeney, Darcy Cameron, Harry Marsh, Nic Newman, Colin O'Riordan, Gary Rohan
Out: Dan Hannebery (Injured), Kieren Jack (Injured), Jarrad McVeigh (Injured)

Burning questions

Can Sydney get revenge?

Last time these two teams met, it was a late Mason Wood goal that gave North the two-point victory at the SCG. A side that takes serious pride in its performances, there is no doubt the Swans will be looking to get one back on the Roos at their home ground.

Who will Ben Jacobs go to?

Back last week after missing the previous two matches with concussion symptoms, Ben Jacobs was back to his best against Gold Coast, restricting Sun David Swallow to just 14 disposals. With Kieren Jack and Dan Hannebery out, it leaves Kennedy and Parker as the leaders of the Swans’ midfield. The likely option is Kennedy, but will Jacobs be able to handle the Swan’s big frame and strength?

How many debuts will we see?

With Will Walker and Alex Morgan both named in the squad for Sunday’s clash, will we see one or both of them make their AFL debut? Both Walker and Morgan have been around the mark in recent weeks but haven’t been able to work their way in. Is this the week?