Lance Franklin celebrates one of his three goals against Fremantle in Saturday's final
HE LEFT it late, but Lance Franklin still had plenty of time to shine, producing two moments of magic as the Sydney Swans recorded a 24-point victory over Fremantle to secure a home preliminary final.
Franklin had just 1.2 on the board up to three quarter-time, well held by recalled Dockers defender Alex Silvagni, but the first-year Swan kicked two critical final-quarter goals in their 13.15 (93) to 10.9 (69) triumph.
Moved into the middle by coach John Longmire, who got the better of his old sparring partner Ross Lyon, Franklin responded by first kicking a booming goal from more than 60m that halted a Fremantle charge.
He then got loose in the left pocket and slotted the ball on the run from an acute angle that gave the Swans a 22-point lead in front of 35,998 fans at ANZ Stadium.
"His speed, plus taking away their reference point where their extra (defender) was going, he got involved and was pretty hard to stop when he's running around like that.
"And he can kick it from so far out, it was a combination of all those things, and it worked OK."
Buddy finished with 18 disposals, seven marks, 3.3 and the game's eye-catching highlights in a largely dour, intense contest, but he still needed plenty of help to get the Swans over the line.
Luke Parker (32 disposals), Dan Hannebery (27), Ben McGlynn (three goals) and Lewis Jetta (25 disposals, seven inside 50s) were all crucial as the flag favourites earned a week off and a home preliminary final in two weeks.
But the outcome remained in doubt until well into the final term, with the courageous Dockers refusing to yield on a grey, wet Sydney day.
Missing a host of key personnel, including key defenders Luke McPharlin and Michael Johnson, the Dockers never stopped coming and were within 15 points after a Michael Walters goal 19 minutes into the final term.
But they fell short, leaving them facing a home game next week against the winner of Sunday's match between Port Adelaide and Richmond.
Matthew Pavlich (four goals), Michael Barlow (28 disposals), Nat Fyfe (29) and Tendai Mzungu (21) all contributed to a Fremantle side that, on this performance, will still feel it can have a say in September.
But the Swans' extra polish meant they have given themselves the best chance of reaching a second Grand Final in three years.
Malceski is considered a likely All Australian this year and his loss denied the Swans one of their main avenues out of defence and could have greater implications for the rest of the finals series.
Nearly twelve months after being suffocated by the Dockers' pressure in the first half of last year's preliminary final in Perth, the Swans made an impressive start.
Franklin was prominent, kicking 1.2 for the term, although the Swans were looking for him a little too often and the Dockers were able to double team him and nullify some of his influence.
Fyfe was exceptional in the quarter, picking up 10 touches and a goal, while Garrick Ibbotson was playing an important floating role in defence.
Pavlich kicked his second early in the second quarter to put the Dockers back in front, quickly answered by McGlynn's second, before the game tightened up and no goals were kicked for 20 minutes.
At half-time the Swans were leading the disposals, tackles, inside 50s and clearances, but hadn't made it count on the scoreboard.
In the third quarter, however, the home side finally put its foot down.
Fleet-footed duo Jetta and Gary Rohan were critical as the Swans lifted their intensity and kicked four goals to one for what looked a match-winning 22-point lead at the last change.
And so it proved, with the Swans doing enough to keep their charge for another flag well and truly on track.
"I thought our forwards were opportunistic, the little amounts of opportunities our midfield gave them, and I thought our defenders defended pretty well under siege," he said in his assessment of the game.
"Half-time we dominated the entries 14-9, but you can't drop marks and miss opportunities and they got some opportunities they took late that gave them the lead.
"We dared to win in the last quarter, got some real ascendancy, couple of errors and Buddy's class – a goal from the boundary and a goal from 55 – and they held sway.
"But we never stopped trying."
SYDNEY SWANS 3.4 5.8 9.10 13.15 (93)
FREMANTLE 3.1 5.3 6.6 10.9 (69)
Sydney Swans: McGlynn, Franklin 3, Hannebery, Tippett, Jack, Parker, Jetta, Goodes, Pyke
Fremantle: Pavlich 4, Mzungu 2, Fyfe, Walters, Mundy, Sutcliffe
Sydney Swans: McGlynn, McVeigh, Hannebery, Parker, Jetta, Kennedy
Fremantle: Pavlich, Barlow, Fyfe, Mzungu, Neale, Sandilands, Silvagni
Sydney Swans: Malceski (hamstring)
Sydney Swans: Craig Bird replaced Nick Malceski at quarter-time
Fremantle: Hayden Crozier replaced Danyle Pearce in the third quarter
Umpires: Rosebury, Schmitt, Meredith
Official crowd: 35,998 at ANZ Stadium