By CHARLIE GOODSIR
A third quarter blitz has set up a clinical 56-point Preliminary Final victory over a brave yet ultimately inexperienced Canberra outfit for the Sydney Swans on Saturday afternoon in Blacktown.
The 18.10 (118) to 8.14 (62) win sees the Swans reach their third Grand Final in as many years and keeps their hopes for an inaugural NEAFL flag alive.
The Canberra Demons were brave throughout the day but were simply outclassed in the second half by one of the most consistent teams in the history of the NEAFL.
“That’s been an issue for us this season,” Demons player-coach Kade Klemke told neafl.com.au.
“We’ve been able to match it with teams for three quarters and then through a lack of concentration just lose the game from there.
“Against the midfield like the Swans you can’t afford to do that because then they will just run over the top of you.”
The Swans started the better of the two teams with multiple inside 50 entries but couldn’t capitalise on their early dominance.
Jake Brown finally opened the scoring for the Swans in the 5th minute and then Gary Rohan kicked a classy snap goal three minutes later to give the Swans an early two-goal advantage.
As he has done all year, Mitch Maguire lifted his teammates when he kicked a fantastic goal in the pocket after he forced a turnover, but the Swans went in to quarter-time 19 points clear.
Canberra needed to start strong in the second quarter but got off to the worst possible start by letting in two soft goals to Swans midfielder James Bell to have them down by 28 points after 10 minutes into the second.
After kicking three behinds for the quarter, the Demons got their first goal of the quarter through Alex Smout on the back of an unnecessary 50-metre penalty from the Swans.
The Demons then rallied to kick the next two and cut the margin back to just 10.
Unfortunately for Canberra, two goals in the space of seven minutes to Rohan stretched the lead back out to 16 points at the main break.
The hope of a Canberra Demons comeback was still alive in the third quarter as the game became a real grind with neither side able to put any scoreboard pressure on.
However, James Rose scored a quick double inside two minutes and handed the Demons a deficit of 29 points.
From that point on, the floodgates opened as the Swans through Sam Wicks, Josh Stern and ruckman Darcy Cameron all kicked truly in in short succession as the Swans headed into the final quarter with a 54-point lead.
For the majority of the final term, the ball was entrenched in the forward-50 of the Demons but weren’t able to kick a major. After countless behinds, Owen-Auburn and Reed Stevens kicked conciliation goals but the result was well and truly gone by that point with the Swans making their fifth NEAFL Grand Final.
The Swans are renowned for their elite midfield but today it was the young players and Academy prospects who stood up.
Ryley Stoddart had a great first quarter and was solid throughout the match collecting 16 disposals, six marks, five inside 50s, four tackles and a vital goal in the first quarter.
Brown (22 disposals, five tackles, four clearances, and a goal) arguably had his best game for the season and Swans Academy player Sam Wicks kicked two goals in an impressive performance.
There were a lot of even contributions from all the Canberra players who never stopped giving it their best.
Maguire had another strong outing with 27 possessions, 10 clearances, five tackles and a goal. Smout (31 disposals, five clearances, and a goal) lead by example for the Demons in the midfield.
Mitch Hardie (12 disposals, three tackles and one goal) was a constant presence up forward as well.
Klemke was understandably disappointed with the loss but incredibly proud of the effort his team displayed throughout not only the season but in the finals series as well.
“To get this far I am really proud of the boys with what we have achieved this year,” he said.
“Last weekend against Sydney Uni was definitely one of the highlights so we’ll take a lot of we have been able to accomplish this year.”
The Sydney Swans will face the minor premiers Southport Sharks in the 2018 NEAFL Grand Final and will look to redeem themselves from the failures of 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
PRELIMINARY FINAL 2
Sydney Swans v Canberra Demons at BISP
SYDNEY 4.2 8.3 15.8 18.10 (118) CANBERRA 1.1 5.5 6.8 8.14 (62)
GOALS – Sydney: J Bell 3 D Cameron 3 G Rohan 3 S Wicks 2 J Rose 2 J Stern J Brown H Ellem J Maibaum R Stoddart. Canberra: B Fulford 2 C Owen-Auburn M Maguire R Stevens A Paech M Hardie A Smout.
BEST – Sydney: J Maibaum J Brown J Rose H Marsh D Cameron K Veerhuis. Canberra: I Taylor M Maguire A Smout A Paech T Highmore S Martyn.