Negating the AFL’s most potent forward line won’t be light work at the SCG on Saturday night but Sydney hope many hands will make it happen.
Team defence has long been in vogue but few sides have predicated the need quite like Adelaide.
The Crows’ star-studded forward line boasts no shortage of threats and looms as one of the most imposing hurdle the Swans must clear if they’re to avoid another straight-sets finals exit.
Eddie Betts, Taylor Walker, Josh Jenkins and Tom Lynch are all capable of busting the semi-final open , having each booted 40-plus goals this year.
No team this year have bettered Adelaide’s average of 16.7 goals a game.
“Their starting six are all genuine forwards and they know each other really well. It’s a great mix of talls and smalls … they’ve got such good balance and they’re so well drilled,” Swans defence coach Henry Playfair said.
“They really spread the load well.
“We’ll be relying on team defence. We expect the guys to get across and help, we try and prevent any one-on-ones. “That’s part of the back six mentality then you’ve got the team mentality of midfielders getting back to fill space and forwards putting pressure on, preventing any quick balls coming in.”
It’s an approach the Swans have nailed for most of the year, conceding an average 9.6 goals to claim the title of the league’s stingiest side.
It went awry in week one of the finals, when Greater Western Sydney recorded an upset 36-point win in the most high-stakes derby yet.
The frequency, speed and precision at which the ball came into the forward line didn’t make life easy for Sydney defenders Heath Grundy, Dane Rampe and Aliir Aliir. Playfair noted they could have done better.
“We hung in there and and fought on but we didn’t necessarily go out and get after the game enough, from our back half,” Playfair said.
“Even though we were under the pump with some quick entries, when we got our chance we didn’t really take them on.
“We just have to play with a bit more intensity, energy and life in our game. Don’t sit back and expect it to happen.”
Rampe played on Lynch, while Grundy handled Jenkins in round four when the Crows prevailed by 10 points in a classic.
Nick Smith will again be handed the job on in-form livewire Betts, who booted six goals in the Crows’ elimination final win over North Melbourne.
“Nick has played on him previously and knows him really well, so at times he’ll got to him. Eddie also spends a fair bit of time up the ground as well,” Playfair said.
“That’s a different challenge and I won’t divulge too much on how we’ll handle it.
“But Eddie is such a dangerous player and you’ve got to have someone watching him pretty closely all the time.”
SYDNEY’S MASTER MISERS *Conceded a league-best average of 9.6 goals a game in 2016 *Dane Rampe included in 2016 All-Australian side, while Nick Smith’s capacity to shut down the league’s best small forwards was rewarded with All-Australian selection in 2014 *Haven’t conceded more than 14 goals in a match at the SCG since 2013 ADELAIDE’S FEARSOME FORWARDS *Averaging a league-best 16.7 goals a game in 2016
*Eddie Betts, Josh Jenkins and Tom Lunch all included in 40-man All Australian squad this year
*Have booted 14 goals or more in 19 of 23 games in 2016.