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NEAFL: Swans hold heads high despite Grand Final loss

O'Riordan post match - NEAFL Grand Final, 2018 SwansTV caught up with Colin O'Riordan after today's disappointing loss to Southport.

Sydney fell to a 55-point defeat to the Southport Sharks in the 2018 NEAFL Grand Final at Fankhauser Reserve on Sunday, but Swans captain Colin O’Riordan says his troops can hold their heads high.

The Sharks kicked the first three goals of the game and never trailed en route to a 14.6 (90) to 5.5 (35) win, but O’Riordan pointed to the way his side responded to a rocky start to the season. 

Sydney qualified for the Grand Final despite losing its opening four games of the season, falling to GWS, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Aspley before wrapping up second on the ladder and clinching a place in the decider.

“We never really dwelled on the slow start too much,” O’Riordan told SwansTV post-match.

“We took every game as it came and that was the mentality we had. An 0-4 start isn’t ideal but if you had told us after that we’d be in the Grand Final we’d take it hands down.

“To play in the Grand Final and to be able to captain the Swans in the Grand Final is a massive achievement and a massive honour. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

O’Riordan also paid tribute to the long list of QBE Sydney Swans Academy members who topped up the side in 2018.

A total of 13 Academy players donned the red and white in Sunday’s clash, a record number of Swans Academy members in a grand final.

Among the host of Academy players were star duo Josh Stern (23 disposals) and Bailey Stewart (22), who found plenty of the ball in a losing cause. 

“For so many Academy boys to come in it’s phenomenal to keep on winning week in and week out,” O’Riordan said.

“It’s pretty good that we can do it as a club and that our Academy allows us to do it. I’m incredibly proud of the Academy boys for having a real crack all year and again today.”

O’Riordan was one of the Swans’ best in the Grand Final, collecting 27 touches, eight marks and a goal in a rock-solid display at half-back.

Ruckman Darcy Cameron also starred in a return of 19 possessions, eight marks and 41 hit-outs, while forward James Rose tallied 38 disposals and a goal.

O’Riordan and development coach Tadhg Kennelly were rapt to welcome back star midfielder Jordan Dawson for the big dance and the youngster showed why, recording 15 touches, 10 tackles and three goals in a glittering performance.

Speedster Ryley Stoddart made his AFL debut this season and capped off a breakthrough year with 18 touches in the big dance.

The Swans trailed by 28 points at the long break and 60 at the final change but refused to lie down, booting three goals to the Sharks’ two in the final term to earn O’Riordan’s praise.

“We said at three-quarter time we have to have a bit of pride in the guernsey and what we stand for as a club and in terms of culture,” O’Riordan said.

“We never wanted to die wondering and I don’t think we did today. We kept going right until the end and it’s a good sign of a team that keeps plodding away.

“We’ll learn from this and we’ll regroup and go again.”

First-year Swan Jake Brown didn't return after being concussed in the third quarter and will be monitored in the coming days.

Southport Sharks: 3.2 6.2 12.4 14.6 (90)

Sydney Swans: 0.3 1.4 2.4 5.5 (35)

Goals – Sydney Swans: J Dawson 3, C O’Riordan, J Rose