THE resurgent Sydney Swans appear to have fixed their woeful defensive numbers but there’s still the one key statistic they’re working to improve: 3-6.
The Swans’ mission improbable, becoming the first team to make the finals after losing their opening six games, gained further momentum with the weekend’s big win over top-eight side St Kilda.
With a bumper Friday night clash against fellow fallen powerhouses Hawthorn at the SCG looming, the Swans’ season is suddenly alive and kicking.
While the Swans are mounting a recovery from their horror season start, the Hawks are just trying to get something going.
A loss for either team would be an almost fatal blow to what slim hopes remain for their respective seasons.
Although they’re riding a three-game winning streak, no-nonsense defender Nick Smith has a pragmatic assessment of just where the Swans sit.
We’ve had a good three weeks but we’re 3-6. We just have to keep going and putting our best foot forward. If we get our stuff right everything takes care of itself.”
But the Swans do appear to have turned the corner. After conceding close to 100 points per game in the opening six rounds, Sydney have kept their opponents to an average of just 75 points in the last three weeks.
The return of All-Australian defender Dane Rampe has added to that improvement.
“Having Dane back just makes us so much more settled,” Smith said.
“He’s a very good athlete and competitor, he didn’t look out of place at all despite his long break. The young guys have done a pretty good job but it takes time and having Dane back and Macca for the two weeks before that gives a really stable feeling. It makes a big difference. It provides certainty.”
Modern-day powerhouses Sydney and Hawthorn have looked shadows of their former selves, both with just three wins from their first nine outings.
It’s a stunning fall from grace, considering four of their last 14 meetings have been finals, including the 2012 and 2014 grand finals.
While the 12th-placed Swans will go into the clash favourites against the 16th-placed Hawks, Smith is wary given their rivals have won seven of their last 10 encounters.