Sydney Swans defender Colin O’Riordan iced a brilliant individual game with a go-ahead goal at the death as the red and white snatched victory from the grasp of the Redland Bombers on Saturday afternoon.
The Swans trailed the Bombers by 14 points at three-quarter time in the Blacktown International Sportspark encounter, but they’d charge to five final-term goals to Redland’s two to steal a seven-point win.
O’Riordan was one of Sydney’s best in the 12.15 (87) to 12.8 (80) victory, his crumb and right-foot snap in the shadows of full-time a sweet reward for his 26 possessions and eight marks.
O’Riordan’s goal, which stemmed from a Redland turnover in its own defensive 50, put Sydney ahead by two points, before QBE Sydney Swans Academy enforcer Hamish Ellem snapped a six-pointer of his own to seal victory.
Sydney development coach Jeremy Laidler heaped praise on O’Riordan, the Irish Swan who last year made a long-awaited AFL debut to stun the footy world.
“Colin played in defence for three quarters of the game and I thought he was really strong down there. He beat his opponent and also supported his teammates – both in the air and on the ground,” Laidler told Swans Media.
“We then made a change at three-quarter time to put him in the midfield, and he was really hard and clean in there and made a big difference for us in winning the game.
“For him to get on the end of a goal late in the game was very pleasing, and he got a lot of his teammates to jump on board today.”
First-year draftee Nick Blakey, who returned to the NEAFL after a four-week stint in the AFL, gathered 22 touches and two goals.
The Academy product bolstered the Swans in both the midfield and forward line, and Laidler was rapt with his attack on the footy and ability to isolate inside 50.
Fellow first-year Swan and Academy graduate Sam Wicks, a promising small forward, spent the majority of the game in the midfield en route to 27 disposals and a goal.
Darcy Cameron watched from the sideline after suffering a minor injury during the week, opening the door for big-framed 19-year-old Joel Amartey to shoulder the Swans’ ruck duties in a battle with star Bomber Craig Maloney.
Young speedster Matt Ling also enjoyed a day to remember, with the second-year Swan ramping up his game time on the road back from a broken toe.
The Swans’ 2017 number one draft pick last week returned for his first match in almost a year, and on Saturday he budged his game time from 40 to 60 minutes.
Laidler spoke with immense pride for the young star, who on Easter Sunday will celebrate his 20th birthday.
“Matt has come back with some really good form and a really good attitude,” Laidler said.
“His hardness and the way he goes about his business is really special. It’s another step in his journey back. He naturally uses the ball very well, his defensive work was up there with the best today, and the boys get a lot of energy from him because he’s just so infectious.”
Laidler says his message to Sydney’s Academy youngsters is to “not be afraid to make mistakes because everyone does”, and he couldn’t have been happier with the output of Saturday’s 10 top-ups.
The Swans’ team-wide effort blazed the trail for the comeback win, and Laidler was thrilled with the never-say-die fight of his charges.
“We were just harder for longer and we ran over the top of them in the end,” Laidler said.
“The way we went about it was really pleasing, we just found a way and everyone played their part. It’ll do us a lot of good knowing we can win like that. It wasn’t pretty, but we just scrapped and scrapped and found a way to win.”
The win means the Swans are now placed third on the ladder after the opening three rounds, joining the Brisbane Lions (first) and Southport Sharks (second) as the only undefeated clubs.
Sydney will look to build on its perfect start to the season in a clash with cross-city rival GWS at Blacktown International Sportspark next Saturday afternoon.
Sydney Swans 2.5 4.7 7.10 12.15 (87)
Redland Bombers 3.2 7.4 10.6 12.8 (80)
Goals – Sydney: N Blakey 2, H Ellem, J Bell, K McKellar, C O’Riordan, J Pawle, T Pink, J Rose, R Stoddart, S Wicks