SYDNEY'S first AFLW outing against Adelaide was a resounding 67-point loss, the Swans' incredible rise up the ladder brought to a grinding halt by a far more experienced outfit.
Coach Scott Gowans was circumspect post-match, praising his side's efforts but cognisant the majority of players are only in their second season.
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"We went in with the strategy of trying to control the contested ball and couldn't do it, then we tried plans B, C and D. We're just not quite there yet, which is fine, we're on a journey and learning, and we got a good lesson tonight," Gowans said.
"The big thing for me was our pressure factor stayed around 2.4, and we had a target of 2.3, and we achieved that in the game, it never dropped off. Our GPS was our second-highest for the year, so our work-rate was there, we were just beaten by a better side.
"It'd be very different if the work-rate wasn’t there and the pressure was sitting at 170 or something, then you would question it. But when you bring work and intensity and are just beaten by a better team, that's absolutely acceptable. We just have to get better."
The absence of leading key forward Bec Privitelli (foot) left a significant hole in attack, with the Swans employing a considerably smaller forward line.
"It was actually a look we were planning on trying earlier in the year, where we have a mid playing that role, just to try and get some midfield connection with the forwards," Gowans said.
"But 'Priv' was going so well, we couldn't stop it. So we trained it this week, and even in training it didn't quite work because we hadn't done it for probably six weeks.
"It just didn't work at all tonight. We flipped it a few times, tried to push the forwards up, went one-v-one for a good portion of the middle game, but the problem of going one-v-one against Adelaide is it opens up their A2, so if they're winning the contest, they've got all the room in the world (on the outside of the stoppage)."
Adelaide's stunning run in the AFLW continues with its fifth preliminary final, having only missed out in 2020 when the penultimate round of finals was scheduled but not played. The penultimate deciders weren't held in 2017 and 2018.
"It was a really strong performance. I thought it was still a really good game, and the pressure from Sydney was at a really high level, but to be honest, it was probably our first four-quarter effort for the year, bizarrely," coach Matthew Clarke said.
"We've been a little bit patchy, but that was complete. There was lots to like about their performance. I actually thought Sydney's defenders performed pretty well, in terms of their intercept ability, but as it wore on, we began to give our forwards more advantage.
"It's been one of the things we've been trying to improve across the season, but it was a good night."
Adelaide is facing a selection crunch after omitting key defender Najwa Allen for small forward Jess Waterhouse in the Sydney clash, and is now up against a tall North Melbourne side.
The Crows are fully fit, aside from midfielder Abbie Ballard (ACL).
"That was a tricky one last week in terms of the selection (leaving Waterhouse out for the qualifying final), then this week was really tough with 'Naj' coming out of the side," Clarke said.
"We felt match-up wise, Sydney's smalls were probably a little more dangerous ahead of the ball than their talls. So, we'll have another tough conversation this week in terms of what North Melbourne bring, because obviously they've got a lot of aerial threats.
"Wednesday (selection day) is not my favourite day, to be honest, so we'll see how we go."