Key takeouts from round 17

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How Swans’ stumbles can change the flag race

Sydney’s shock losses to Fremantle and St Kilda are as inconsequential to the Swans as they are significant for their rivals. When the numbers are crunched at the end of August, the likelihood is the results will not cost the Swans top spot and the prospect of not having to leave Sydney until grand final week. They will regain Callum Mills and Luke Parker for the run home. Both are set to play in the VFL this week, with Mills certainly to return to the seniors the week after, and Parker not long after that, form permitting. They are two handy players for the ladder leaders to inject fresh into their side approaching finals, when their rivals are feeling the pinch of a long season. These losses, by one and two points, will only sharpen players’ focus and eliminate what, if any, complacency there is in the camp. If you view things through red and white glasses, it remains a pretty picture. But rivals will be emboldened by what they have seen Fremantle and St Kilda do. They now have evidence, rather than just theory, of what can be achieved if you pressure the Swans in traffic, take their free-flowing game away from them and make their forwards receive dirty ball. If there is a third of the ground where the Swans can struggle, it is in attack, which sounds strange given they are the league’s highest-scoring team. Logan McDonald, Joel Amartey and Hayden McLean are on the rise, but not yet at the point where they can consistently break games open against the flow. Yes, key forwards are not often match-winners in September, but most recent premiers have carried that threat. The impending returns of Mills and Parker will give John Longmire the flexibility of giving Isaac Heeney and Chad Warner more time forward. At times against the Saints, they appeared the Swans’ most dangerous players around goal. – Andrew Wu

The Swans have lost two in a row.

The Swans have lost two in a row.Credit: AFL Photos

Hardwick’s truth bomb as Suns provide another false dawn

In dropping the F-bomb post-match on Saturday, Gold Coast coach Damien Hardwick dropped a truth bomb on his club. The Suns might need to relocate to Summer Bay as their brand becomes more Home and Away than finals contenders. The Suns knew they needed to beat North Melbourne to start on the road to credibility and keep their finals hopes realistic. And they could not do it, meaning that another false dawn has occurred where the sun didn’t rise as expected, the third time in their drab history where a statement win over the Magpies has turned to dust. They have to grow up and harden up; their lack of pressure early in such a big game was embarrassing. Those watching the game could have been excused for wondering how much the game mattered to the Suns, but Hardwick’s Gordon Ramsay impression was all about showing how much it did matter. They can still make finals, but none of their opponents would be too concerned to face them. North Melbourne, by contrast, have the average football fan in their corner as they emerge from the wilderness with a month of competitive performances, overcoming the loss of George Wardlaw for the past two games to win their first game in Victoria since round one last year. We knew Harry Sheezel could play but Colby McKercher showed his class too, his electrifying run in the second quarter a reminder they were there to win. – Peter Ryan

Scott’s fighting DNA is what defines the Cats

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It has taken far too long for Chris Scott to earn his dues as one of the best coaches the game has seen. Two premierships – with just three players who played in both flags – and a winning rate above 68 per cent is incredible, allowing Cats fans to enjoy a remarkable era of finals football and premiership contention. And he has done so by being prepared to back his judgment on players and risk looking foolish in an attempt to find the key to any group. In the past three weeks, he shocked everyone by moving Sam De Koning into the ruck, worked with Tom Stewart to regain form and confidence as an on-baller, played Patrick Dangerfield for 54 per cent of game time, returned Jeremy Cameron inside 50 and Max Holmes to half-back. And Tom Hawkins’ injury forced the change the loyal Scott was never going to make in taking the champion out of the side to include Shannon Neale. The blooding of Lawson Humphries also appeared to give the veterans a spark, with Mitch Duncan and Zach Tuohy finding form. The Cats gave the brave Hawks a reality check and their real test comes against Collingwood on Friday night. But under Scott the Cats are never going to shy away from a fight. It’s in their DNA. They sit fifth with back-to-back scores over 100 and restricting the opposition to 10 goals is more what Geelong want. – Peter Ryan

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