Fremantle have joined West Coast as AFL preliminary final hosts after the Dockers held off an almighty challenge from undermanned Sydney.
The Swans wrote another chapter in their celebrated Bloods culture on Saturday at Domain Stadium before Fremantle won 10.9 (69) to 7.16 (60).
“The effort to come across here and have a real crack for as long as what we did and play it out to the final siren – I couldn’t fault our blokes for effort,” said Swans coach John Longmire.
Fremantle’s win put the AFL a step closer to its first Western Derby grand final.
West Coast are premiership favourites after beating Hawthorn in Friday night’s Perth qualifying final.
The Hawks have slipped to third in the betting behind the Dockers.
While Fremantle join West Coast in enjoying a week off, Sydney must lick their wounds and rally for next Saturday night’s home semi-final against Richmond or North Melbourne.
There was some booing of Adam Goodes in Saturday’s game, but it was not as bad as the now-infamous July 26 match at this ground against West Coast.
Already missing key players Kieren Jack, Lance Franklin, Nick Smith and Luke Parker, Sydney suffered a massive blow early in the second term when in-form forward Sam Reid limped off with a hamstring injury.
But despite only kicking two goals in the first half, the Swans restricted the damage to a manageable 17-point deficit at the main break.
Fremantle had left the door open and Sydney, led by Josh Kennedy and Dan Hannebery, kicked it wide open in a pulsating third term.
Dockers coach Ross Lyon blasted his players at three-quarter time, but said the tight win would do them good.
“I was concerned – Goodes was on fire,” Lyon said.
“They started to bounce out of our forward 50 a bit.
“But I knew we would fight. That will bring us to a hard edge.
“The third quarter we had a bit of a wreck on our hands (and) I thought we turned it around.”
The only part of Sydney’s game that let them down was one of the most important – goalkicking accuracy.
After winning the toss and kicking with a strong wind, Sydney started with six behinds – most of them gettable set shots.
They also kicked 2.5 in the frantic last quarter.
“It was a gutsy effort … (but) we didn’t take our chances when we needed to and that’s a part of finals football,” Longmire said.
“You have to have effort and execution and we failed on one of the key indicators of execution.”
Kennedy had 39 possessions to be best afield and his run of 11 30-plus games in a row is understood to be an AFL record.
Brownlow Medal favourite Nat Fyfe was also outstanding in his return from injury, especially during the first term, although he briefly limped off near the end of the match.
Longmire confirmed Lance Franklin (illness) will miss again, while Kieren Jack (knee) and Luke Parker (leg) will also remain out for another week.
Reid’s season appears over, but the Swans should regain All-Australian defender Nick Smith.
Of all the absent Swans stars, they missed Smith the most.
Hayden Ballantyne, playing his first game since round 16, and fellow Dockers small forward Michael Walters crucially kicked three goals apiece.
Smith would have gone to one of them.
For all Sydney’s bravery, Longmire said they must move on immediately.
“They’re still hurting – we lost a final today,” he said.
“As good as what the effort was, we’ve lost a final and we need to get back and get going again.
“We’re just not happy with the effort (today), we need to go again next week.”