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Preview: Semi-final

Peter Ryan  September 12, 2017 10:07 AM

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Callum Sinclair lays a strong tackle on Mitch Duncan during the Round 18 clash between the Swans and Cats.

SUMMARY 
The pressure is on Geelong as it faces the prospect of its second straight-sets exit from finals in the past four seasons. Not only were the Cats well below their best against a rampaging Richmond in the qualifying final but they now must regroup to overcome the Sydney juggernaut. The Swans, who have won 15 of their past 17 matches, have not lost to the Cats in their past three encounters with an average-winning margin of 40 points. They are in form, have goalkicking options everywhere, are injury-free and sport the AFL's most miserly defence. The last time they met the Swans were without Josh Kennedy and the Cats were minus Patrick Dangerfield but it was a slow start and sloppy defending that cost the Cats. This week, the Cats look set to lose Cam Guthrie and Jake Kolodjashnij to injury and their skipper Joel Selwood is proppy after an early-than-expected return from ankle surgery. If they are to upset the Swans they need to make a good start and take their opportunities which means Daniel Menzel must play. 

WHERE AND WHEN: MCG, Friday September 15, 7.50pm
AEDT

WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR?
The Swans jumped the Cats once again and kicked five unanswered goals after Tom Hawkins kicked the opener. They were more efficient inside 50 and used the ball better to dent the Cats' confidence ahead of the finals. 

LAST FIVE TIMES 

R20, 2017, Sydney 16.11 (107) d Geelong 8.13 (61) at Simonds Stadium
PF, 2016, Sydney 15.7 (97) d Geelong 8.12 (60) at the MCG 
R16, 2016, Sydney 15.8 (98) d Geelong 9.6 (60) at Simonds Stadium
R19, 2015, Geelong 14.11 (95) d Sydney 9.9 (63) at Simonds Stadium
R7, 2015, Sydney 18.12 (120) d Geelong 11.11 (77) at ANZ Stadium 

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Geelong
1. Play Patrick Dangerfield forward. If ever the Cats were desperate for a player inside 50 it is now and the superstar might be the matchwinner.

2. Throw the run-with players aside and hunt the ball to make the Swans' midfield reactive. 

3. The Cats will let the Swans' exciting small forward Tom Papley know he is in a cut-throat final by not giving him a moment's peace. 

Sydney
1. The Swans love to fire up the opposition early with a push and shove before the opening bounce. The Cats will not take this lying down.

2. Lance Franklin will want to get a win on Geelong veteran Tom Lonergan in their final battle. Expect Buddy to be a charging bull inside the forward 50.

3. Jarrad McVeigh's 300th game will be celebrated as it should but the Cats will look to play through him so he can't dictate terms in the back half. 

THE SIX POINTS

  1. In round 20 the Swans set their win up with a big opening quarter kicking seven goals to two. Despite the result, the Cats had more disposals, inside 50s and clearances.
  2. Since round seven, the Swans have won 15 of 17 games, which is four wins better than the next best team Richmond.
  3. Sydney has beaten Geelong in their last three encounters and won five of the last six.
  4. Geelong is ranked fourth in contested possessions averaging 147.3 per game, just ahead of the Swans, which is ranked fifth with 146.7 contested possessions.
  5. Geelong has won one of its past five finals while the Swans has won three of their past four.
  6. Geelong and Sydney are the only two clubs with two players in the top 10 of the Schick AFL Player Ratings. Cats Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Sewlood are ranked No.1 and No.8 respectively, while Swans Josh Kennedy (No.5) and Lance Franklin (No.7) are also in the top echelon.

WHAT THE COACHES SAY
Chris Scott: "They won one-on-one contests and we didn't win anywhere near enough and even when we did we missed the shots." - after the round 20 clash.
John Longmire: "It was the evenness of the contribution of the players right across the board. We didn't have any real absolute standouts." - after the round 20 clash.

IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR … Chris Scott.
The coach has copped criticism this week for overseeing the Cats seventh finals loss in nine games but a win would answer the critics in fine style.