Sydney coach John Longmire will keep paying no heed to his players’ birth certificates after his youthful AFL side’s survival of a torrid challenge from a spirited Carlton at the SCG.
Lance Franklin booted four goals on Saturday afternoon as Sydney eked out a 10.14 (74) to 10.8 (68) victory.
After four losses by 10 points or less, the Swans held on against a combative Carlton, who emerged with plenty of credit despite suffering a sixth straight loss.
Eight of the Swans were 22 or younger and nine had played less than 30 games.
“When you look at the make-up of our team, those blokes were getting untold experiences,” Longmire said.
“You can talk about it, you can even rehearse it and do a lot of things, but there’s nothing like living something – being able to have those experiences which hopefully will hold them in good stead.”
Asked if he could afford to field such a young side leading into the finals, Longmire said: “we wanted to play our best team regardless of the birth certificates; we wanted to play the players that were in form and playing well”.
“That’s what we’ll continue to do.”
The Blues pressured Sydney and went toe-to-toe with the Swans’ deep midfield brigade.
They led by three points at the first change and eight at halftime.
Sydney looked to have made a decisive surge by scoring the first 28 points of the second half, including four goals.
Trailing by 20, Carlton dug in and kicked the last two goals of the term to trail by just seven at the final change.
The Blues had much of the play in the final quarter but couldn’t convert that into points against the competition’s stingiest defence.
“The third quarter was one where I think we were trying to be a little bit too precise under pressure with the ball and missed some opportunities to go forward and take ground,” Carlton coach Brendon Bolton said.
“We’re proud of our progress, but by far not satisfied with close losses.”
Youngsters Aliir Aliir and Xavier Richards started well for Sydney, whose third-quarter lift was sparked by Isaac Heeney and Gary Rohan, each of whom had a quiet first half.
Rohan finished with eight possessions, but pulled off eight tackles.
“He doesn’t have to have a lot of the ball to have an impact on the team and the opposition and that’s what he did,” Longmire said.
“What got us right in the hunt in that third quarter was pretty simple footy.
“It wasn’t a lot of technical work … it was just our fierce energy and contest.”
Josh Kennedy starred for the Swans with 35 possessions (23 contested) and 12 clearances, with Jake Lloyd accumulating 26 touches and Luke Parker 24 disposals and two goals.
Four players tallied more than 30 touches for Carlton with Patrick Cripps notching 32, 22 of them contested, 12 tackles and 11 clearances. Ed Curnow was their only multiple goalkicker with two majors.
Bolton said Charlie Curnow would require a scan on a knee injury and expected him to miss multiple games.