The QBE Sydney Swans Academy kicked off the U/18 National Championships in fine style, defeating the GWS Giants by four points in Sunday’s clash in Blacktown.
The two NSW rivals battled hard during what was a fierce four-quarter tussle at Blacktown International Sportspark, but it was Jared Crouch’s charges who ultimately prevailed 12.14 (86) to 12.10 (82).
After establishing an early lead thanks to a five-goal-to-one opening term, the Sydney Swans were the victim of their own inaccuracy in front of goal during the second quarter to give the Giants a sniff and nearly square the ledger by the half-time break.
The second half was closely fought, but a couple of clutch goals in the final stanza saw the red and white claim bragging rights in 2017.
Capping off a superb performance in defence, Mitch Rogers was thrown forward and kicked a crucial goal to peg the margin back within striking distance in the closing stages of the match.
Then Nick Blakey, son of Sydney Swans coaching director John, who already had two goals to his name in a standout performance at full-forward, kicked another major to put his side in front with less than two minutes to play.
In other standout displays, Michael Carroll and Luke Robertson provided plenty of run and drive from defence, Paddy Tegg won some crucial contests and half-forward Josh Stern lifted when his team needed him most.
Crouch praised his team’s efforts, particularly the way they responded after trailing by as much as 15 points in the third quarter, but acknowledged there was still room for improvement ahead of a big second round.
“It was a really good performance from our players who showed true Swans’ characteristics by fighting right until the final minute,” he said.
“There were some very clear learnings to come from the game. When we played as a team, we played some really good football. When we went more individual, we let the opposition back into the game.”
In a tough start to the tournament, the Academy faces a short turnaround before they fly to the top end for their second-round hitout against the Northern Territory on Saturday.
“Overall, it was a good start to our campaign,” Crouch added. “But we know that this week will be challenging playing in hot and humid conditions against a very good side who love to play at home.”
Crouch expects a few changes may be made to the side ahead of the clash at Darwin’s TIO Stadium.
QBE SYDNEY SWANS ACADEMY 5.4 6.9 8.11 12.14 (86)
GWS GIANTS ACADEMY 1.1 6.3 9.10 12.10 (82)
GOALS - SWANS: Blakey 3, Osborne, Bell, Skrivanic, Tegg, Stern, Rogers, Hardman, Maze, Eynaud
GIANTS: Owen-Auburn, Lane 4, Shipley 2, Spargo, Edwards
BEST - SWANS: Blakey, Osborne, Stern, Robertson, Rogers, Maze
GIANTS: Shipley, Spargo, Fitzgerald, Owen-Auburn, Conlan