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Five talking points: Sydney v Collingwood

Highlights: Sydney v Collingwood The Swans and Magpies clash in round 20

1. Welcome back Alex Johnson!
Is there a better story in the AFL than that of the return of Sydney’s Alex Johnson? The last time the Swans defender ran out for a senior match was on the MCG for the Grand Final in 2012 (in which Sydney beat Hawthorn by 10 points). Some 2136 days and five knee reconstructions later and Johnson made his return against the Pies in a game he’ll long remember. Playing against a giant in Mason Cox, Johnson more than held his own in defence and will take confidence from his few forays in attack. After almost six years out of the game, it was a very welcome return for one of Sydney’s fan favourites.

After 2136 days on the sidelines, Alex Johnson made a welcome return to footy. Picture: AFL Photos

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2. Moore pain as crippled Pies fall short
Collingwood’s heart-stopping two-point loss to Sydney is just its first interstate defeat for 2018. What will hurt more though is the loss of Darcy Moore, who exited the match in the second quarter after a hamstring complaint. It was a huge blow for the Pies who have seen their tall defender stocks decimated this season through injury, and now incredibly have 17 players on their injury list. Can their depth sustain them as they make a play for the top four?

 

3. Buddy brilliance has Swans flying high
If you needed to look for a barometer for Sydney’s success, you’d be hard-pressed to look past Lance Franklin. When Buddy is on song, so are the red and white. When Buddy goes missing, so do any chances the Swans have of making an impression or registering a victory. That’s why it was so important Buddy was back to his barnstorming best against the Pies, dragging his teammates and his team to an important and hard-fought win. Since making his debut in 2005, Franklin has kicked 910 goals, while no other player in the AFL has kicked 600 goals in this period. The Swans spearhead was involved in 13 out of 17 scores for the Swans and took six forward 50 marks, which was the same number as Collingwood. The Swans talisman helped register another famous victory for the club, one that may be very important in deciding the eight.

 

4. Madgen alley-oops on AFL debut
Former US college basketballer Jack Madgen has certainly had a debut to remember. Collingwood’s big tall played college basketball for four years for Delta State University in Ohio and has impressed in the VFL since his move to Australia. He continued that impressive run in the first half against the Swans, and at one stage early on had a game-high five intercept possessions. But the Magpie debutant had a tough initiation late in the third term when Darcy Moore’s injury forced Madgen to cover Franklin, with Buddy giving the first gamer a lesson in a marking contest. Promising signs though from the former hoops shooter and Nathan Buckley will be glad for the experience Madgen earnt from this match.

5. Swans are back but are they a realistic finals chance?
Tippet. Naismith. Mills. Hannebery. Melican. Reid. Rohan. Normally this would read as a list for Sydney’s best and fairest contenders but currently this is just some of the outs the Swans have to contend with as they try to finish their season on a high. Their victory over the Pies was a welcome return to the winners circle, and Sydney certainly is a realistic finals chance but is it a real threat? Will its long list of injuries cruel it when push comes to shove and finals footy starts in earnest? For now, its mix of young and old players have kept the Bloods in the mix for another week, as well as maintaining its record of having never lost more than five times at the SCG in a season.

 
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs