WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.2 2.3 6.3 6.6 (42)
GOALS: Sydney – Franklin 3, Reid 2, Papley 2, Hannebery, Kennedy, Parker, Hewett, Lloyd.
Western Bulldogs - McLean, Daniel, Stringer, Dickson, Wood, Dahlhaus.
BEST: Sydney – Kennedy, Hannebery, Papley, Parker, Reid, Franklin, Heeney, Grundy. Western Bulldogs - McRae, Daniel, Dahlhaus, Wallis, Suckling.
UMPIRES: Mathew Nicholls, Sam Hay, Robert Findlay, Shane McInerney.
CROWD: 20,692 at the SCG
As far as firestarters to stumbling AFL seasons go, they don't get much better than handing the reigning premier Western Bulldogs their biggest loss of the season - a 46-point thumping at the SCG.
The Sydney Swans breathed much-needed life into their 2017 campaign on Thursday with a wasteful but dominant showing over the team that broke their hearts in last year's grand final, notching just a fourth triumph of the year and sneaking to within a pair of wins off eighth place.
Coach John Longmire was forced to sit uncomfortably through an evening of missed chances from his charges in front of a disappointing 20,692 fans, but such was his side's authority throughout across the ground it didn't matter.
At three-quarter time the Bulldogs were still alive, but Longmire could eventually relax in the final term as Sydney finally skipped far enough ahead to notch their first win in five starts against the premiers.
"We put the opposition under enormous pressure when they had the ball and that turned into 70-plus inside 50s," Longmire said.
"We used the outnumber at times pretty well. Structurally we were pretty sound but it's always built on your absolute intensity at the ball."
The big guns all stood up. Lance Franklin kicked three despite a slightly off night with the left boot. His opponent Marcus Adams went down with a foot injury midway through the game after which Franklin squared off with Easton Wood.
Captain Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker worked their way into the game nicely and did plenty of grunt work at the coal face, both hitting the scoreboard too.
Dan Hannebery set the standard early, running through the Bulldogs huddle just as it dispersed before the opening bounce and snapping a goal less than two minutes into the contest.
Sam Naismith was strong in the ruck, justifying Longmire's decision to drop Kurt Tippett to the reserves, and Sam Reid's strong marking in greasy conditions provided the visitors with a problem they struggled to deal with all night.
"We spent three weeks where we were feeling pretty good about it as far as playing well and then we took the foot off the pedal for a half against Hawthorn and we got what we deserved," Longmire said.
"It's a pretty simple blueprint. We can be feeling good about ourselves and say that we played quite well about ourselves tonight even though they were one down, but the blueprint's there for success and not so much success.
"If you take the foot off the pedal at any time, you leave yourself vulnerable. We go to Melbourne next week and go again."
The same couldn't be said for the Bulldogs.
Last year's Norm Smith medallist Jason Johannisen was roughed up by the aggressive Swans throughout and failed to impact the game.
Forward Travis Cloke was barely sighted while Marcus Bontempelli was well below the high benchmark he sets himself.
"Sydney were pretty good, we obviously didn't play well, it was a combination of the Swans bringing an intensity and aggression that we couldn't match tonight," Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said.
"Whether you call that flat or not I'm not sure but it was a disappointing night.
"We're struggling our way through the season, week to week we're looking for our best. Tonight we weren't anywhere near where we needed to be.
"It's up to all of us to take responsibility. The buck stops with me. I'm the one who needs to get them going.
"It's my responsibility to reignite the flame, it's my responsibility to get us going again and play somewhere near the levels we were last year."
It's almost unfathomable to think this Sydney side started the year 0-6, and that this was just their second win in six at the SCG this season.
Whether the Swans are a team that will challenge the top eight or merely shape it remains to be seen. The damage done by the sluggish start may yet prove irreparable.
But the facts suggest they could still be a factor. They're two wins out of the eight with a strong percentage. Their roster is getting healthier each week, Kieren Jack and Naismith were both back tonight, and Tippett is searching for form and consistency in reserves.
Should he find his best, this team becomes stronger still.
Winnable games against Richmond, Essendon and Melbourne follow this one, and they have nine days to recover from the Bulldogs win before taking on the Tigers in an MCG blockbuster.
The Swans suffered an early blow against the Bulldogs with Gary Rohan ruled out of the game through illness, handing Harry Marsh a return to the side.
And the first quarter was the predictable slog expected in the greasy conditions turned away by Sydney's poor recent weather which has almost been as atrocious as the Swans' home form this season.
Naismith laid on Hannebery's early goal with some handy ruck work, before Toby McLean threaded the needle from deep in the pocket to notch the Bulldogs' first major.
The Bulldogs' press combined with the slippery ball made progress very difficult for Sydney so they reverted to what's worked for them all season - kicking it to Franklin.
He marked 50m out, went back and drilled it home to put the Swans back in the lead but he failed to extend it soon after when lining up from only 20m out, hitting the post instead.
Missed chances became contagious in the second term and the Swans kept shooting themselves in the foot with Franklin, Zak Jones and Reid all missing what they should've kicked.
Buddy rediscovered his kicking boots and managed two for the quarter, his long bomb from outside the arc after the half-time siren the pick, meaning the embattled Swans took a 23-point lead into the main break.
Tom Papley also hit the scoreboard roving the ball close to goal when lurking front and square, and it was well deserved after playing a strong defensive game throughout.
Their were more missed chances by the Swans in the third term but coach Longmire would've still been pleased to see the simplified gameplan paying dividends.
Much of Sydney's attacking thrusts now simply involved kicking it long to the hot spot, and Reid was the target. His strong marking in congestion was a particular highlight and he kicked a pair of goals in the quarter.
The Bulldogs just about kept themselves in it kicking three goals straight for the term, but by now Sydney was well and truly on top.
The game petered out in the final term and Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge will take his charges back to Melbourne with plenty of questions to be answered.
VOTES (James Buckley)
Josh Kennedy (Sydney) 9
Sam Reid (Sydney) 8
Dan Hannebery (Sydney) 8
Luke Parker (Sydney) 8
Isaac Heeney (Sydney) 8