The Sydney Swans have stormed through to their third Grand Final in five years with a fearsome 37-point win over a shell-shocked Geelong at the MCG on Friday night.
In a pressure-football master-class that defied what has been a bruising September, the Swans dismissed their opponents in a brutal first half and were never seriously challenged, winning 15.7 (97) to 8.12 (60).
The win keeps the prospect of an historic all-Sydney Grand Final alive, with Greater Western Sydney and the Western Bulldogs to face off on Saturday for the right to meet the red-hot Swans.
Coming off a six-day break and nursing sore players after physical finals against GWS and Adelaide, the Swans had much to overcome against a Geelong team that had played once in 27 days.
But the Cats’ unique preparation, as a result of the pre-finals bye, might have been the bigger hurdle, with Chris Scott’s men slow out of the blocks and unable to regroup.
They couldn’t handle the Swans’ revered midfield pressure, with the aggression and commitment of John Longmire’s men creating turnover after turnover.
“It was enormous, our pressure at the ball and the man with the ball, and the way we attacked the contest was really ferocious in that first period of the game,” Longmire said after the game.
“We were really able to build our game on that … it was just fantastic.”
Midfielders Dan Hannebery (29 possessions), Josh Kennedy (25) and Tom Mitchell (27) were immense, while captain Kieren Jack was a battering ram with 13 tackles.
It was young Swan Isaac Heeney, however, who shone brighter than them all in a brilliant 28-possession performance that further cemented him as a star of the future.
Superstar forward Lance Franklin finished with two goals and will head to his second Grand Final with the Swans, while first-year Swan Tom Papley kicked a game-high three goals.
The Swans’ defenders were rock solid, with the returning Zac Jones and mainstay Dane Rampe combining for 28 rebound 50s and 48 disposals.
Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield battled all night to finish with 39 possessions, nine clearances and nine inside 50s, but the Swans limited his effectiveness and burst with the ball.
Captain Joel Selwood was equally brave with 39 possessions (including a finals record 23 contested) and 10 clearances, and the pair was largely responsible for their team finishing with an incredible 72-40 advantage in inside 50s.
Defender Aliir Aliir will face a race against time to play in the premiership decider after suffering a right knee injury late in the first quarter and being put on ice for the rest of the match after a fitness test.
Midfielder Luke Parker also suffered a left knee injury in the second quarter, but played on and was influential in what was an emphatic statement from the minor premiers in front of 71,772 fans.