The candidates waiting in line to replace the injured Harry Cunningham headline the latest edition of Hot Topics ahead of the Sydney Swans’ clash with Essendon at the SCG on Friday night.
Who’ll replace Cunningham?
Cunningham is expected to spend six to eight weeks in the injury ward after tearing his adductor in last week’s loss to the Brisbane Lions, presenting an opportunity for another Swan to replace the speedster in Sydney’s back six. The two most likely candidates are Colin O’Riordan (four AFL games) and Ryley Stoddart (two), with the young defenders capable of playing on small forwards and injecting penetrating drive off half-back. Stoddart also covers Cunningham’s ability to play on a wing or as a small forward, and his outstanding versatility was on show as he helped Sydney to wins over Brisbane and Carlton in his two senior appearances last year. O’Riordan last week tallied 41 disposals in the NEAFL as Stoddart collected 21 touches and a goal. Midfielders Ryan Clarke and Justin McInerney can also slot in as rebounding backmen, so there is a host of potential replacements for Cunningham.
Speed blitz awaits
The battle of speed will light up the SCG as Sydney’s Zak Jones, Oliver Florent and Will Hayward collide with Essendon’s Adam Saad, Connor McKenna and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti. Whether the star Swans and Bombers are buoying their respective sides off half-back, in the midfield or as opportunist forwards, their wheels are crucial in the pursuit of victory.
Shooting for victory
The Swans have won just one of their opening seven games of the season and are placed last on the ladder ahead of Round 8. But despite the rickety start and the raft of young personnel on the club’s list, Sydney is determined to feature in a 10th-straight finals appearance. The Swans haven’t fallen short of September action since 2009, and they understand they’ll have to start stringing together wins quickly if their finals streak is to continue. West Coast lays claim to the second-longest current finals streak competition-wide, with the Eagles having featured in September every year since 2015 for a run of four series in a row.
Maintaining the edge
The Swans have won 10 of their last 12 clashes with the Bombers and enjoyed an average winning margin of 29 points per match in that period. Sydney’s biggest win over Essendon in that time was its 81-point victory at the SCG in Round 7, 2016. The Swans haven’t lost to the Bombers at the SCG since Round 15, 2009, meaning they’ve won their last six home matches against the team in red and black.