Half the AFL coaches are tipping Sydney to win the premiership, but they’ll have a hard job convincing the Swans they’re flag favourites.
In the annual AFL media coaches survey, nine of the 17 who responded tipped Sydney to triumph at the end of what’s developing into one of the tightest seasons ever.
Three-time defending champions Hawthorn lead by four points, with Sydney second on percentage from three other clubs, and two more just another win behind.
The Swans are notorious for publicly playing themselves down, and defender Nick Smith ran true to form when asked to respond to the survey’s results.
“I wouldn’t read too much into it, to be honest,” Smith said.
“There’s eight sides this year in the top eight (and) maybe St Kilda as well, who can win the flag.
“I don’t reckon there’s been a year where it’s been so even and so open.
“It’s just going to come down to who can play the best footy at this time of year and hopefully can keep their best players on the park as well.”
One thing Smith didn’t dispute is that even one loss in the final three rounds could prove costly for the Swans.
“You lose a game now and you possibly miss a chance of the top four, so every game you have to win,” Smith said.
The Swans will face an equally committed team on Saturday at Etihad Stadium, where ninth-placed St Kilda must win to keep their slim finals hopes alive.
“They’ve improved a lot since last year,” Smith said.
“Their pressure is really good, so it will be a tough contest.”
It will be the first AFL Pride game, which celebrates and recognises sexual diversity.
Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham said it was statistically obvious there were homosexual players in the AFL, but referred to the treatment last year of Swans indigenous icon Adam Goodes as evidence of the prejudices of some fans towards different groups.
“We saw the really difficult period that Adam Goodes went through for example when he supported indigenous causes and just how brutal the football community can be on game day,” Pridham said.
“We are talking about a very wide cross-section of our society and many of them do have prejudices and that’s what we need to break down.”