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Ire of the Tigers to test Swans' late finals charge

Football

Sydney's audacious bid to make the AFL finals faces another test against the last side to make a miraculous charge into the major round.

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Last night’s impressive 46-point win over reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs at the SCG lifted Sydney to a 4-7 record.

It bumped them three places up the ladder to 13th and ensured they will be no more than two wins off eighth by the end of the round.

The resurgent Swans, who have won four of their last five after a 0-6 start, get a nine-day break before tackling Richmond at the MCG.

Three years ago, the Tigers were in an even worse mid-season position than the 2017 Swans, floundering in the lower reaches of the ladder with a 3-10 record after four straight losses.

But the Tigers then reeled off nine straight wins to scrape into the top eight – appropriately, sealing the deal with a three-point nailbiter against the Swans in Sydney.

Long-suffering Richmond supporters are breathing more easily this season with the club firmly entrenched in the top eight with a 7-4 record.

They were fourth going into their bye week and can’t drop more than one spot despite not playing.

Sydney coach John Longmire is clearly an admirer of the way the Tigers go about their business and knows his team will face a tough test at the MCG on Saturday week.

“They have been fierce around the contest,” Longmire said of Richmond following the Swans’ win over the Bulldogs.

“Their pressure has been enormous, that’s the thing I’ve really noticed this year.

“They play a really strong hard brand of footy, so that’s a good challenge for us.”

Sydney utility Gary Rohan, who pulled out with sickness a few hours before last night’s game, is expected to be available next week.

Recalled former co-captain Kieren Jack dislocated fingers late in his comeback game against the Bulldogs, but earned praise from Longmire for lifting after a quiet first half.

“He was pretty important for us just in a leadership sense in that first half, and then he got going when he started to find his sea legs,” Longmire said.

“His third quarter was really good and he started off well in the the last quarter as well, went in for centre bounces, and dislocated a couple of fingers there at the end, but he was pretty good in the second half.”

Meanwhile, a candid Luke Beveridge said his Western Bulldogs side has stagnated, but it is his responsibility as coach to reignite the defending AFL premiers’ stalled campaign.

The Bulldogs lost every quarter on their way to the 46-point away defeat, kicking just 2.3 in the first half and 6.6 for the game, their lowest score of the season.

They were smashed 65-16 in the hitouts, 71-39 in inside 50s and finished well behind in contested possessions and marks.

Beveridge even resorted to throwing Marcus Bontempelli into some ruck contests, but conceded that was one of many ploys that didn’t come off on the night.

The loss dropped the premiers to a 6-5 record this season.

Beveridge said out-of-favour midfielder Tom Liberatore wasn’t the only Bulldog performing below his best this year.

“I’m sure he’ll come in at some point, but we need our players playing at their very, very best, it’s. It’s the reason why we’re six and five, because we’ve stagnated,” Beveridge said.

“You don’t get picked on reputation if you’re not playing well enough.

“I’m not disappointed in him because I admire him and we owe him too much for what he’s already done.

“We’re frustrated that the majority of our players who carried our club last year, for one reason or another, haven’t been able to find their best.

“It’s up to all of us to take responsibility. The buck stops with me, I’m the one who needs to get them going.

“We’ve got great people who work at our footy club, but it’s my responsibility to reignite the flame.

“It’s my responsibility to get us going again and play somewhere near the levels we were last year, regardless of whether or not we lose personnel at different times through injury, and I haven’t been able to do that to the level that I’d like, as yet.

“Hopefully at some point we get some momentum and we start playing near the standard that we know we can play, but it’s been too spasmodic.”

Beveridge suggested he would tweak, rather than overhaul, the Dogs’ style of play, following their fifth loss in as many games outside Melbourne this year.

“We need to continue to evolve and to get better, tonight we looked off the pace in many areas,” Beveridge said.

“Does that mean you move away from the core principles of the way you play? Definitely not, but there needs to be a renewed energy towards it for us to be a threat in the back end of the year.”

The coach added defender Marcus Adams had suffered a midfoot injury and hoped scans would show it was not serious.

-AAP

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