Swans beat Cats to make AFL grand final

Sydney are into their third AFL grand final in five years after ambushing Geelong early on Friday night at the MCG and winning by 37 points.

The 2012 premiers jumped Geelong with the first eight goals of their preliminary final on the way to a convincing win, 15.7 (97) to 8.12 (60).

The Swans will play the winner of Saturday’s preliminary final between the Giants and the Western Bulldogs at Spotless Stadium.

Geelong fought back hard in the third term to create some interest in the contest, but they were coming from too far back after trailing by 55 points.

Sydney’s early domination will reignite debate about the fairness of the round-23 bye.

After Geelong beat Hawthorn in their qualifying final, it meant the Cats had played only once in 26 days before Friday night.

By contrast, the Swans lost their qualifying final and had to come through last week’s semis.

This had been widely tipped to be a tight battle, with little appearing to separate two of the league’s toughest teams.

But the Swans’ pressure initially was manic and they put Geelong out of the contest early.

It was reminiscent of the mugging Hawthorn inflicted on the Swans in the opening quarter of the 2014 grand final.

Sydney kicked 7.2 to five behinds in the first quarter and the Cats did not score their first goal until four minutes into the second term.

Isaac Heeney, Lance Franklin, Ben McGlynn, Luke Parker with two goals in as many minutes, and Dane Rampe set Sydney alight in the first quarter.

The domination continued in the second term, with Sydney kicking four goals to two.

Cats defender Harry Taylor went forward in the third term and kicked two goals as Geelong worked their way back into the match.

When they kicked the first goal of the last term, they only trailed by five goals.

But Cats veteran Corey Enright mucked up a kickout and Gary Rohan pounced at five minutes to kick the steadying goal that killed off Geelong’s belated challenge.

Geelong remarkably won the inside-50 count by a whopping 72 to 40, but they butchered too many chances in front of goal and the Swans’ defence, led by All Australian Dane Rampe, was outstanding.

Swans defender Aliir Aliir hurt his knee late in the first term and he will be their injury story of grand final week.

But he was running along the boundary nearing halftime and might have been put on ice.

Teammates Gary Rohan and Kurt Tippett, who were injured earlier in the finals series, had solid games on Friday night.

Swans co-captain Jarrad McVeigh missed the match with a calf injury and said pre-game he was close to being available.

Brownlow Medal favourite Patrick Dangerfield was best for the Cats.

Geelong veteran Jimmy Bartel, who kicked a great goal in the second term, faces an uncertain AFL future.

While he is likely to stay at Geelong, there is speculation about how much time he will spend next year in the VFL.

Swans coach John Longmire praised his side’s early ferocity.

“It was enormous, our pressure at the ball, the man with the ball,” he said.

He admitted to concern when Geelong pressed in the second half, but again was pleased that his team withstood the pressure.

“This is finals footy – you’re not going to have it all your own way,” he said.

“They certainly had a lot of inside 50s, but I thought our boys really stood up.

“We were one down (with Aliir injured) and kept going at it.”

Longmire said Aliir was “a bit sore” and added it was unclear whether he would be fit for the grand final.

It was pointed out to Longmire that whoever Sydney play in the grand final is chasing history.

“So are we,” was Longmire’s response.

The Swans have regenerated their team superbly in the last two years, but Longmire said they still had to complete their hard work.

“We’re thrilled to get an opportunity, but now we have to go out and execute – the job is ahead of us,” he said.

Cats coach Chris Scott said their opinion on the finals bye was unchanged – that they would rather have had it.

“We clearly need to analyse how we approached it,” he said.

“We were confident going in … we thought we gave ourselves every chance.

“It was completely in our control and we just didn’t deliver.”

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