Chad Warner celebrates a goal during the R11 clash between Sydney and Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium on May 23, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

A STUNNING display from Chad Warner has guided Sydney to a 10th win for the year, defeating the Western Bulldogs by 14 points on Thursday evening.

Warner's four goals and damaging run led the Swans to the 16.6 (102) to 12.16 (88) win at Marvel Stadium, keeping them locked in on top of the ladder ahead of next week's bye.

BULLDOGS v SWANS Full match coverage and stats

The Dogs were brave to the end despite losing key forward Aaron Naughton (knee) and in-form midfielder Ed Richards (concussion) early in the game.

The Swans, who got out to a 30-point lead midway through the final quarter, attempted to ice the clock but the Dogs had other ideas as Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (six marks, three goals) put them back within eight points with six minutes remaining.

But a controversial 50m penalty paid to Hayden McLean just as the Bulldogs threatened to snatch it put an end to the comeback.


Brownlow Medal fancy Isaac Heeney (23 disposals, eight clearances) and young gun Errol Gulden (25 disposals, 502 metres gained) were both instrumental for Sydney, while also each dobbing impressive goals from tight angles to wow the crowd.

Richards was dominant for the home side in the opening half, breaking through packs and neatly directing the ball inside 50, but a head clash early in the third quarter, which subsequently ruled him out for the game, saw momentum swing the Swans' way.


The Dogs' pain was compounded with Anthony Scott (concussion) and Naughton also ruled out through the game. Despite having depleted stocks, the Dogs never stopped pushing.

They owned large patches, applying oppressive, suffocating pressure to maintain possession in the front half and exploit the height advantage the likes of Ugle-Hagan and Sam Darcy had over Sydney's keys. Turning that field position into a damaging score proved more difficult, however, with the side kicking 12 goals from 28 scores.

Speed from the restart was the Dogs' best friend, led initially by defender-turned-midfielder Richards, sending the ball high inside 50 to dominate the aerial contest, and then driven by the likes of Adam Treloar (30 disposals, six clearances) and late inclusion Ryley Sanders (20 disposals, six tackles). It forced the Swans' defenders into panicked ball use and poor decision making, allowing the Dogs repeat opportunities on goal.


There was a concerted focus on defending the corridor from the Dogs, preventing Sydney from using its aggressive end-to-end transition that has allowed it to shoot up the ladder this year.

It was largely effective, but when the Swans did break through, the attacking ball use was devastating. Winger Justin McInerney (20 disposals, nine marks) was instrumental early in the game as Sydney struggled against the Dogs' press, able to bring the likes of Joel Amartey (four marks, two goals) and Will Hayward (six tackles, two goals) into the game.

Injuries galore
Before the first bounce, the Bulldogs had already lost tall defender James O'Donnell to illness, and from there simply couldn't catch a break. A mere four minutes into the opening term, Anthony Scott was subbed out on his return to the AFL after a nasty head clash with Swan Harry Cunningham. By the second quarter the side had lost important key forward Aaron Naughton with a serious knee concern, and in the third Ed Richards, who had been arguably best on ground to that point, was pulled from the ground after his own head clash with Ollie Florent early in the last quarter. It is Richards' second concussion in nine weeks, after missing round three with the same concern.


The Chad
Every time the Dogs threatened to take control of the game and open up a winning margin, it was star Swan Chad Warner who turned the tide. His power through congestion allowed him to find space where otherwise there was none, which led to clever, composed ball use to set up his teammates. Rarely was a Bulldog opponent able to go with him, allowing him to rack up 25 disposals, while he also snuck forward to kick four goals for the game in another impressive display, and added a stunning high-flying mark in the third quarter for good measure.


Sanders shows what he's made of
From what was initially meant to be another week spent in the VFL, Ryley Sanders' AFL reprieve allowed him to show off his immense talent. Added as the substitute as a late change for James O'Donnell, it took just four minutes for Luke Beveridge to make his sub with Anthony Scott concussed. Sanders took to the field and moved beautifully through the middle of the ground and across half-forward, offering composure with ball in hand, and a neat sidestep to escape danger. On a dark night for the Dogs, Sanders was certainly a shining light with 20 disposals and six tackles.

WESTERN BULLDOGS             4.3    7.8    8.11   12.16 (88)
SYDNEY                                   4.1    7.4    12.6   16.6 (102)

Western Bulldogs: Ugle-Hagan 3, Garcia 2, Darcy, English, Naughton, West, Vandermeer, Harmes, Gallagher
Sydney: Warner 4, Amartey 2, Hayward 2, McLean 2, Papley, Gulden, McDonald, Wicks, Adams, Heeney

Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Ugle-Hagan, Treloar, West, Richards
Sydney: Warner, Gulden, Grundy, McInerney, Heeney, Blakey

Western Bulldogs: Scott (head clash), Naughton (right knee), Richards (head knock)
Sydney: Nil

Western Bulldogs: Ryley Sanders (replaced Anthony Scott in the first quarter)
Sydney: Matt Roberts (replaced Aaron Francis in the final quarter)

Western Bulldogs: James O'Donnell (illness) replaced in selected side by Ryley Sanders
Sydney: Nil

Crowd: 27,377 at Marvel Stadium