Sydney backline stalwart Nick Smith says the miserly defence his AFL side’s success is based on is part of a proven global formula across many sports.
The minor premiership-winning Swans have conceded just 1469 points this year, an average of only 67 per game.
Only St Kilda with 1411 in 2009 have given up less in a season since the competition was expanded to 22 rounds in 1970.
Tight defence isn’t just a major key to success in Australian rules according to Smith.
“I think if you look at all the good sides in world sport a lot of them are really good defensively, so we definitely base our game around that,” Smith told AAP.
“It’s a lot about 18-man defence, it’s not just the back six.”
Sydney’s defensive meanness in 2016 is even more laudable given the changes to their back six this year.
Ted Richards, their key defensive linchpin for the past decade, has notched just eight appearances in his final season, while first-year seniors Callum Mills and Aliir Aliir have enjoyed plenty of playing time.
“We’ve got a few new guys in there this year which has made a massive difference to us as well,” Smith said.
“Callum Mills, Jake Lloyd has been down there a bit now, Aliir Aliir.
“We’ve got really good flexibility down there now.”
The Swans also lead the AFL in tackles and contested possessions.
Their commitment to the former was highlighted last week when they laid more tackles than Richmond despite winning the match by 113 points.
“We want to tackle well, we want to pressure the opposition, so we’re really happy with how we out-tackled Richmond considering we had a fair bit more of the ball,” Smith said.
“We do practise it (tackling). I think a lot of tackling is in your approach.
“I reckon it’s about 80 per cent how you approach it and 20 per cent technical, although you do have to be a bit more careful these days with people running at you with their head down with a few people ducking, so you’ve got to adjust your technique.”
Smith and his defensive colleagues will be tested in the qualifying final by the potent and multi-faceted GWS Giants forward structure.
The Giants were only the third and most recent club this season to score 100 or more points against the Swans, with Sydney not conceding more than 83 in their ten subsequent games.
“They’ve got a good forward line and we’re going to have to play well to counter it,” Smith said.