Hayden McLean celebrates a goal during round 22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

SYDNEY has moved inside the top eight for the first time since round five after repelling Gold Coast's challenge to secure its fifth successive victory with a 24-point triumph at the SCG on Saturday.

The Swans finished 18.6 (114) to 13.12 (90) for their 11th win to improve to 46 points and move up to sixth on the ladder, although that is likely to change with the Western Bulldogs, St Kilda and Greater Western Sydney still to play this weekend.

SWANS v SUNS Full match coverage and stats

The 2022 grand finalist has lost only once in its past eight games to storm back into the finals race, having been 15th after round 17. Sydney has only missed the finals twice in the previous 13 seasons.


Swans half-forward Will Hayward was sensational with four goals including three in the second quarter, while the heir to Lance Franklin's throne, Logan McDonald added three goals.

Chad Warner was exceptional with 28 disposals including 15 contested possessions with two goals, while Tom Papley had four goal assists among his 24 touches, stepping up with the impact of last week's Brett Kirk medalist Errol Gulden limited by Touk Miller's close attention.

The result ends any remote finals hopes for the 14th-placed Suns, who slump to a 9-12 record. Gold Coast has a 2-3 record under caretaker Steven King since replacing Stuart Dew, amid their ongoing pursuit to land three-time premiership-winning Richmond coach Damien Hardwick.

Little separated the two sides in a tight first half with the Suns holding single-digit leads at the first two breaks before Sydney pulled clear with a six-goals-to-two third term, headlined by Warner's brilliant left-foot snap from a tough angle.


Earlier there had been eight lead changes, with Gold Coast productive from stoppages, while lively forward Malcolm Rosas booted three goals.

Matt Rowell was typically tough in the coalface with a game-high 18 contested possessions among his 25 disposals with two goal assists, while ruckman Jarryd Witts dominated the ruck battle with 47 hit-outs and 17 disposals.

The Suns found an advantage with three goals from stoppages in the first quarter, with Rowell's arrow handball enabling Sam Flanders' snap, while Isaac Heeney booted two goals including a clever left-foot finish from the boundary as the visitors led by five points at quarter-time.

The influence of Heeney was telling with the Swans forward setting up a pair of goals for Will Hayward early in the second. Gold Coast, though, hit the front again with Miller pinpointing Levi Casboult out of the middle for a goal, before finding space himself to convert after Rosas' composed pass.

Hayward kicked a third for the term, but the Suns went 14 points ahead with more success from stoppages, before late transition goals from Sydney tall forwards Hayden McLean and McDonald cut the margin to two points at half-time.


There were a further three lead changes early in the third term, as the teams traded goals, with Joel Amartey cleverly tapping to McLean to snap through his second, before getting one of his own in the goal square from the influential Hayward's handball.

Sydney's midfield begun to get on top in the third, underlined by Warner's classy snap and Papley bursting out of the middle to find McDonald for a routine set shot. The Swans won contested possessions 42-34 and clearances 15-12 for the term, opening up a game-high 22-point lead after Hayward's fourth.

Gold Coast threatened to rally with the early territory dominance in the last but couldn’t capitalise, before Matt Roberts, on his return from long-term injury, booted his first goal at AFL level to seal the points for the hosts.


Warner capped his best afield display with his second goal with four minutes left, as Sydney put together six successive majors, before Casboult and sub James Tsitas' late consolations.

True contrast in styles
Sydney had been ranked 16th for clearances and 17th for contested possessions over the past month coming in to the match. The Suns boast the best hitout to advantage ruckman in the league in Witts, plus two of the AFL's top 10 clearance-winners with Rowell and Noah Anderson. Stoppages were a major score source for the Suns in the first half, while Sydney relied on transition and turnover goals, but gradually got more of a foothold around clearances as the game wore on. In the end, Sydney won clearances 48-42 and contested possessions 147-142 with Warner crucial along with Luke Parker who had six centre clearances and 12 contested possessions.

Touk tag goes to in-form Errol
After shutting down Lachie Neale in the QClash a fortnight ago, Miller returned from suspension to line up alongside last week's Sydney Derby hero Gulden at the first bounce. And Miller nullified the Swans winger, who had averaged 29.6 disposals across the past eight games, keeping him to six touches until half-time with only 113 metres gained, while booting one goal and assisting another himself. But Swans coach John Longmire moved Gulden to half-forward in the second half, shaking Miller's tag, with the Swan going on to finish with 19 disposals, his lowest return since round 13.

Errol Gulden tackles Touk Miller during round 22, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Longmire's never-say-die Bloods
Sydney's famed Bloods culture has been on display lately, back in the hunt despite appearing out of the top-eight race barely two months ago when they were in the bottom four with a 6-1-9 record. Since Longmire took over in 2011, the Swans have only missed the finals twice. During its current five-game winning run, Sydney has toppled top-eight contenders, the Western Bulldogs, Fremantle, Essendon, the Giants and the Suns, with clashes away to Adelaide and at home to Melbourne to come. The pain of last year's humiliating Grand Final defeat seems a distant memory now.


SYDNEY              3.2    9.2    15.4    18.6 (114)
GOLD COAST       4.1   9.4     11.6    13.12 (90)

Sydney: Hayward 4, McDonald 3, Heeney 2, McLean 2, Warner 2, Rowbottom, Papley, Amartey, Roberts, Cunningham
Gold Coast: Rosas 3, Lukosius 2, Casboult 2, Flanders, Ellis, Holman, Miller, Anderson, Tsitas

Sydney: Warner, Hayward, Papley, Blakey, Rowbottom, McDonald, Heeney
Gold Coast: Rowell, Witts, Anderson, Miller, Rosas, Ellis

Sydney: Nil
Gold Coast: Nil

Sydney: Ryan Clarke (replaced Joel Amartey in fourth quarter)
Gold Coast: James Tsitas (replaced Elijah Hollands in third quarter)

Crowd: 33,911 at the SCG