Chad Warner and Brodie Grundy celebrates a goal during the Opening Round match between Sydney and Melbourne at the SCG on March 7, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

BRODIE Grundy won the ruck battle, and Sydney won the match.

The clash between Grundy and former teammate Max Gawn was a pivotal duel even if it took until the last term for it to greatly influence the result as Sydney surged late to clinch a 22-point triumph over Melbourne in the season-opener on Thursday night.

SWANS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats

It was instead the Swans' undermanned midfield bolstered by Isaac Heeney spending more time at the coalface that propelled the hosts to a 12.14 (86) to 9.10 (64) win in front of more than 40,000 fans at the SCG.

Heeney lined up at the first centre bounce and went on to be the most impactful player around the stoppages in a role that has been much-teased since his debut season in 2015.


The 27-year-old led the way against the Demons' star-studded midfield in the absence of skipper Callum Mills, Luke Parker and Taylor Adams, with 26 disposals (18 contested), 13 clearances and a goal in a superb display.

Chad Warner (26 disposals, one goal) added valuable support in the second half after only eight touches before the break, as Tom Papley (20, one) also spent time in the middle while adding a spark up forward.


Half-back Nick Blakey was just as crucial after half-time as the Swans looked to lower their eyes more when moving the ball forward after Demons defender Steven May had dominated the air.

Clayton Oliver showed few signs of a disrupted pre-season as he returned to the Demons' senior set-up for the first time this year and immediately made his mark.

The star midfielder might not have been quite as clean as usual but made his presence felt with 29 disposals and six clearances as the Demons stayed in touch until the final term.

There were no concerns with Christian Salem's ball use as the smooth mover shifted from half-back and into the midfield as the Demons looked to get more from their forward 50 entries. 

But it was Jack Viney who stood tallest in the Melbourne midfield with a game-high 31 disposals (14 contested) as well as seven clearances, seven tackles and two goals. 


Bayley Fritsch booted four goals for the Demons, including three in a blistering third term that looked like turning the match in the visitors' favour.

While the Swans onballers gradually wore down the opposition midfield, their prized ruck recruit slowly got on top in the highly-anticipated contest with Gawn.

Grundy drew first blood against Gawn in the ruck with a deft tap from a throw-in that eventually ended up in Oliver Florent's hands to slot the first goal of the season with a 50m checkside kick on the run.

The Demons skipper responded two minutes later with a hitout towards Viney from a ball-up in the goalsquare, as the bullocking onballer did the rest. 


It was an even contest from there with Grundy arguably edging it against the six-time All-Australian with more disposals (22-15), clearances (9-2) and marks (4-1), although Gawn led the hitouts 39-31.

The Swans led by only two points at the last change but slammed on five goals to two to race away and start their 150th season in fine fashion.


Swans talls eye simpler tests
Sydney's emerging talls are out to place a firm grip on the forward line reins following the retirement of Lance Franklin. But Logan McDonald, Hayden McLean and Joel Amartey will have an eye on easier tests than the Melbourne defence present after they combined for three goals, six marks and 16 disposals. The Swans runners often left their young big men with too much to do as they bombed the ball long and into Steven May's hands, but while McLean was able to make an impact in the second half, McDonald remained quiet and Amartey was subbed out in the third term. 


Fritsch poetry in slow motion
After the Demons had gone goal-for-goal with the Swans to open the third term, Bayley Fritsch put the visitors in front for the first time in more than an hour with his second major in two minutes. The crafty goalsneak was the only player on the field to respond after a Tom Sparrow tackle on James Rowbottom was deemed to be holding the ball and Jack Viney bombed a quick kick inside 50. Even Fritsch was jogging at barely half-pace as he shuffled towards the ball and casually snapped a major to temporarily silence the stunned SCG faithful.


Jordon faces up to former Demons
James Jordon had a point to prove against Melbourne after struggling to consistently break into its best 22 in five seasons at his former club. The winger played 18 matches for the Demons last season but was named as the starting sub six times, and was painstakingly left on the bench as the 23rd player in their 2021 premiership side. Jordon made a slow start in his first match for Sydney but went on to finish with 18 disposals. The 23-year-old might not be the Swans' most high-profile recruit but showed enough to suggest he will be an important addition for their midfield balance.


SYDNEY                       3.3       4.3       7.10      12.14 (86)
MELBOURNE              1.6       2.8       7.8       9.10 (64)

Sydney: Hayward 2, McLean 2, Florent, Fox, Heeney, McDonald, McInerney, Papley, Warner, Wicks
Melbourne: Fritsch 4, Viney 2, Langdon, Petracca, Van Rooyen

Sydney: Heeney, Grundy, Blakey, Warner, Papley, Florent, Rampe
Melbourne: Viney, May, Salem, Petracca, Oliver, Gawn

Sydney: Nil
Melbourne: Bowey (shoulder)

Sydney: Sam Wicks (replaced Joel Amartey in the third quarter)
Melbourne: Jack Billings (replaced Bailey Laurie in the third quarter)

Crowd: 40,012 at the SCG