Swans close in on best start this century

Sydney will be out to starve ball-guzzling Essendon of possession as they close in on their best AFL start this century.

The Swans host the Bombers at the SCG on Saturday after last week barely holding off another straggler in Brisbane, who outscored them in each of the last three quarters.

“It was a solid hitout and that’s probably held us in good stead for good preparation for this week,” Swans midfielder Tom Mitchell said.

The win improved Sydney’s season record to 5-1 – and they haven’t had a 6-1 start to the season since 1998.

“It’s a pretty positive vibe around the club and we obviously know things can change pretty quickly,” Mitchell said.

Like Brisbane, Essendon have made a 1-5 start, though their struggles come as no surprise following the fallout of the drug scandal which enveloped the club.

For all their travails and the enforced loss of key players, the patched-up Bombers have still shown an aptitude for winning the ball.

They have the third highest average possessions per game, two places above the Swans, who boast one of the most celebrated on-ball divisions in the competition.

“We’ll try and restrict their possession as much as possible,” Mitchell said.

“They like the ball and having space and being able to run, we’ll be trying to counteract.

“They still have a lot of quality players and we’ll be doing everything we can to shut those guys down.

The biggest problem for Essendon – who have lost their last five games against the Swans – remains goalkicking, the Bombers averaging a league-low 8.7 per game.

“We’d like to find a way to be more consistent on the scoreboard, Bombers’ coach John Worsfold said on the Essendon website.

“We’re having some good quarters and some good halves but then were having quarters where we don’t score or don’t kick a goal.”

Among the five changes to the Essendon side this week is a recall after injury for midfielder and 2012 Swans’ premiership player Craig Bird, who joined the Bombers after being released by Sydney.

Making their Bombers debut will be Mason Redman and Nathan Grima, while young midfielders Darcy Parish and Kyle Langford have been rested and Matthew Stokes is injured.

Sydney have made one change, with experienced defender Nick Smith back from injury in place of Aliir Aliir, who made his debut last week.

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