Sydney Swans ready for ‘team of the year’ Geelong in AFL grand final

John Longmire always expected his Sydney side to surge back into contention, but the Swans’ coach concedes they will be facing “the best team for the year” in the AFL grand final.

The Swans’ blend of battle-hardened veterans and electrifying young guns have set up a first-ever decider against Geelong just two years after back-to-back bottom-four finishes.

The lowly placings in 2019-20 are the only two times the Swans have missed the finals during Longmire’s 12-year reign, which has produced one premiership from three grand final appearances so far.

After their thrilling one-point victory over Collingwood in the preliminary final at the SCG on Saturday, the Swans coach was steadfast that the rapid rise should be considered far from a surprise.

“We had high expectations, internally. We want to give these blokes a crack at playing finals every year,” Longmire said. “This year, we’ve just had confidence in our playing group. They’re a good group.

“They’ve got some experience there, and some terrific young blokes that I really enjoy working with. You get the right people in the right positions and it gives you an opportunity. To get to the last game, it’s a terrific effort to get there and then you want to make the most of that opportunity.”

The Swans have won nine consecutive matches but face a tough test against the Cats, who have won 15 in a row and thumped Brisbane in their preliminary final by 71 points.

The grand finalists’ only meeting this year was in round two when the Swans triumphed by 30 points at the SCG in a match best remembered for Lance Franklin kicking his 1,000th career goal and the scenes that followed.

“We play a team that’s finished the home and away season two games clear, it had an absolutely terrific game last night so they’ll be very confident,” Longmire said.

“They were brilliant, they were really dominant from the first bounce, they played as the best team for the year, which they have been. We understand what they do, they’re a terrific footy team. We’ll have to play at our best but we’ll give it a go.”

As always, Franklin looms as a key to the Swans’ chances of achieving the ultimate success, especially after in-form ruck-forward Sam Reid had to be substituted out of the preliminary final with an adductor injury.

With Reid in serious doubt for the grand final, attention will turn to Franklin who bounced back from a rare poor final to boot two goals in the first half before being well-held by Darcy Moore as the Pies launched a belated comeback.

“I thought he was very good, particularly early,” Longmire said. “I thought he was winning contest after contest, he was chasing, put in a big chase on the other wing and was critical. He was up and going, the big Bud. He was charging around, I thought he gave us a lot of energy.”