The QBE Sydney Swans Academy has clinched a two-point win over the Gold Coast Suns in the U18 Academy Series in a resistance head coach Jared Crouch labels “another incredibly important lesson”.
Sydney bounced back from a loss to Tasmania in the 8.8 (56) to 8.6 (54) victory in the final round of the competition in Blacktown on Saturday.
The Swans enjoyed a number of blow-out wins across the championships, including a 49-point victory over the Brisbane Lions in Round 1 and a 29-point win over the Northern Territory in Round 3.
They experienced the challenges and rewards of trips to the Northern Territory, where they witnessed sunrise at Simpson’s Gap, as well as Tasmania the following week.
A host of underage Academy stars topped up the Swans in every one of the five matches and Crouch said clawing back to the winners’ circle on Saturday made for a critical learning curve itself.
“To lose to Tasmania but come back and record a really hard-fought victory against a very good side in the Gold Coast was a very pleasing way to end the Series,” Crouch said.
“You have your ups and downs in an AFL season and it’s the on-field and off-field things they have to learn. Tasmania are a very good side and went through the Series undefeated and we had to pick ourselves up and come up against the Gold Coast. We had to play some good football and we managed to edge in front right at the end and claim the victory.”
The Swans trailed the Suns by six points at quarter-time but kicked two second-term goals to the opposition’s one to take a five-point buffer into the main break.
Scores were deadlocked at 39-apiece at the final change and the Swans snuck a Hamish Ellem goal in the final minute of play to snatch a come-from-behind win.
It followed a 32-point loss to Tasmania in Glenorchy the week prior, who finished its Academy Series campaign with a win over GWS to complete an undefeated run.
Draft-bound forward Nick Blakey, who recently nominated the Swans as his preferred Club, played another starring role on Saturday in a return of three goals, 15 touches, five tackles and four clearances.
Midfielder Sam Wicks collected 30 disposals, seven tackles and six inside 50s, while utility Joey Reinhard bagged a goal and again impressed across a number of positions.
Crouch pointed to the importance of on-field and off-field lessons the players learned throughout the campaign.
“In some ways as a coach you wish there were another five games so they could continue to learn,” Crouch said.
“It’s been a sharp learning curve and it’s also given the coaches a chance to evaluate the players.
“We were able to really identify which areas they need to improve on over the back end of the year. We can focus in on that now that we don’t have to spend as much time working on getting the team to play together. We can really hone in on individuals now and improve their skillsets.”