SYDNEY has posted back-to-back wins for the first time since the opening rounds to get its season back on track, defeating an injury-riddled Carlton by 26 points on Friday night. 

After a wobbly, error-ridden start to the game, the Swans were able to settle in to kick 11.11 (77) to the Blues’ 6.15 (51) in the annual Marn Grook game. 

SWANS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats

It was a dirty night for the Blues, with the injuries piling up as the game went on, headlined by an ankle concern for captain Patrick Cripps. 

Nick Blakey gave the home side a sense of dare that has been missing in recent weeks, gaining 631 metres from his 26 disposals, while Chad Warner played a Goodes-O’Loughlin Medal-winning game with his 29 disposals, five tackles and two goals. 

The Blues were hyper aware of Sydney’s deficiencies down back and worked to exploit that advantage whenever possible. Crowding their backline, they would explode with pace on the turnover, looking for isolated one-on-ones inside 50. 

When Carlton was able to keep its tall trio of Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay and Tom De Koning inside 50, the Swans defence was nervous and desperate with its attempts to rebound. Often this resulted in dump kicks out that were deftly intercepted by the Blues and sent straight back in.  

But that Sydney defence held up reasonably well despite the personnel it was expected to contain. Conceding 59 inside 50s for the night, they allowed Carlton to goal from just 10.2 per cent of those entries. They were also assisted by the Blues’ inaccuracy, with McKay (three behinds) and Charlie Curnow (one goal, three behinds) the biggest culprits. 

Stoppages have been a concern for Sydney this year, especially those around the ground, but a re-think of how the side structured around those contests proved fruitful. Isaac Heeney’s inclusion at stoppage was one aspect, providing extra defensive coverage and spread from the contest. 

The Swans dominated the centre clearances 13-7, and the standard was set by co-captain Luke Parker (seven clearances, 21 disposals) in his 100th game leading the club. 

In addition, they were often able to lean on quick runners who maintained the discipline to stay a handball away from the play, the Swans were able to move into space more effectively than they have for much of the year. 

Blakey was the leader of exactly that run. Unleashed with Lewis Melican back in the side to play as a tall stopper, Blakey added some of that aggressive run from the back half that was a feature of the Swans’ game last year. 

Sam Walsh was a shining light for the Blues, with a team-high 31 disposals, four clearances and a goal. 

Carlton must now lick its wounds, falling to 12th on the ladder with its promising start to the season fading fast. 

The mental game 
After winning the Coleman Medal in 2021 and starting this year strongly, Carlton key forward Harry McKay has had a tough few weeks, and that didn’t change on Friday night. Presenting well to contests and causing the Swans some headaches in the air, McKay simply couldn’t convert his chances at goal. After kicking two goals from six scoring shots in the last fortnight, he was only able to add three behinds to that tally in the Blues’ loss.

Blakey on the attack 
In recent weeks Nick Blakey has been forced to play more of a defensive game to help bolster Sydney’s tall defensive stocks, but with John Longmire putting his faith in Robbie Fox, Aaron Francis, and in his first game since 2021 Lewis Melican, Blakey was given a licence to attack. His rebounding run through the corridor was the exciting highlight of Sydney’s game, notably setting up Hayden McLean’s second goal and unsettling the strong Blues’ pressure through the middle of the ground. 

How’d he mark that?
Charlie Curnow started the game with hot hands, marking everything that came near him. Literally everything. Midway through the second quarter Lewis Melican had the Blue all but beaten as the visitors looked to move into attack. A legal bump from the Swan saw Curnow fall to ground, but that didn’t bother him as he juggled the ball safely into his chest as he lay on his back 30m from goal. 

SYDNEY             4.1     6.2      8.8      11.11 (77)
CARLTON           3.4     4.8     6.12      6.15 (51)

Sydney: Wicks 2, Ch.Warner 2, McLean 2, McInerney 2, Papley, Hayward, Gulden
Motlop 2, Walsh, De Koning, C.Curnow, Cottrell

Sydney: Gulden, Blakey, Parker, Heeney, Ch.Warner 
C.Curnow, Walsh, Cerra, Cripps 

Sydney: Nil
Hewett (concussion), Newman (hamstring), Hollands (shoulder), Cripps (ankle) 

Sydney: Corey Warner (replaced Lachlan McAndrew in final quarter)
Ed Curnow (replaced George Hewett in second quarter)

Crowd: TBC at the SCG