SYDNEY'S dismal start to the season has gone from bad to worse, with the Swans' winless run continuing with a 19-point defeat at the hands of Carlton on Saturday.
The Blues' dominant third term saw them set up the 15.7 (97) to 11.12 (78) win at the MCG, leaving a listless Sydney on the bottom of the ladder and continuing to search for its first win of 2017.
Sydney's shocking beginning to the season also created history, with the Swans becoming the first team ever to start a season 0-6 after playing in the previous year's Grand Final.
While the Swans' surprisingly quick drop-off was on show against Carlton, the Blues' signs of growth and excitement were equally as obvious.
Youngsters Caleb Marchbank, Sam Petrevski-Seton and Tom Williamson all performed well and stood up at big moments, while Jacob Weitering worked through a corked thigh to have an impact in attack. Matthew Wright's four goals were also match turning in the third term and unheralded Alex Silvagni shut out Lance Franklin across the game.
Sam Docherty was brilliant with 39 disposals and plenty of work through the midfield and across half-back, while Patrick Cripps (27 disposals), Marc Murphy and Kade Simpson also lifted in the second half, when Carlton kicked 10 goals to five.
"It's really important for our group that they responded after (last week's loss to Port Adelaide), particularly our third quarter," coach Brendon Bolton said after the game.
"We've got guys of strong character, good resolve and resilience, particularly when we've got some youngsters mixed in our list at the moment."
Their win may come at a cost, however, with clever forward Jack Silvagni to require scans on his shoulder after a heavy collision on the second term.
Sydney was also wounded in its defeat. Gary Rohan, in only his second game of the season, had to leave the field on a stretcher after suffering a concussion following a marking contest. He headed to hospital for scans as a precaution.
The incident deepened the Swans' disappointment about their day, which has almost derailed any chance the club has of turning around its fortunes for the season.
Jake Lloyd was probably the Swans' most consistent player in the game with 32 disposals, while Luke Parker tried hard (27 disposals, nine tackles) to lift the side.
"There's no easy way out of it. You just have to compete a bit harder and when the game's up for grabs in those moments you have to take your opportunities... We're just not doing it at the moment," Swans coach John Longmire said.
"You can say your confidence levels are down and this and that, but ultimately you only get that back when you're absolutely working your backside off during the week and you're competing on the weekend. We're just not doing that on anywhere near a consistent enough basis."
The Blues didn't always have control, however. It was a scrappy start to the contest but the Swans held an 11-point advantage at the first break.
Where Carlton needed to engineer its chances at goal, Sydney's opportunities seemed to come simpler, with Dan Hannebery and Josh Kennedy slotting straightforward running shots to give their side the ascendancy.
Carlton begun to clean things up in the second term and thanks to the marking strength of Levi Casboult near goal, the Blues cut the deficit then jumped seven points ahead midway through the term.
Sydney steadied to kick the final two goals of the quarter to take an eight-point lead into the main break, but things still felt on even terms. The Swans, like they have all season, just weren't quite seem themselves.
They appeared to lack the midfield drive that has sustained their success of recent seasons, while the Blues, thanks largely to their familiar faces, were plucky, committed and in with a chance.
A number of other Blues stepped up early in the third term to turn the game their way and make the chance much stronger. Wright's four goals came in the first half of the term, while Weitering also kicked one after dominating play to help the Blues push ahead by 23 points.
Wright led Carlton's goalkicking last season after crossing from Adelaide at the end of 2015, and he continues to find ways to hit the scoreboard, with his haul containing clever snaps and converted set-shots.
Just as Sydney was staring down the barrel of another loss, it lifted. The Swans booted the last two goals of the quarter to get back within nine points at the final change. Even for this lacklustre Swans line-up, it was close enough to strike.
However, that would have required a spark to rise from somewhere, and the Swans' embers were all but extinguished. Goals from Cripps and Matthew Kreuzer early in the final term almost sealed the result, before another young Blue, Charlie Curnow, snapped from the top of the goal square to put his team 27 points ahead.
In previous years, the Swans might still not have been written off at that point given the time left at the nine-minute mark. But with this flat outfit, it was more than enough for the Blues to cruise to victory.
Carlton: Jack Silvagni copped a heavy knock to the shoulder in the second quarter and was helped from the field. The forward didn't return in the second quarter and will have his right arm assessed this week with scans. Moments after Silvagni was forced from the field, teammate Levi Casboult received a hit to the head in a ruck contest but he was cleared to play on by club medicos. Jacob Weitering hobbled to the bench with a corked thigh in the third term.
Sydney: Speedy Swan Gary Rohan was concussed after hitting his head on the ground following a marking contest midway through the third term. He was carted off the field on a stretcher and did not feature again in the contest, but the club reported he was awake and talking in the rooms. "He's moving okay, he's awake and he's having precautionary scans," coach John Longmire said post-game. Kurt Tippett was a late withdrawal for the clash after suffering a hip injury at training, and the Swans are unsure if he will be fit to play next week.
Carlton will go into next week's clash with Collingwood with good confidence following their impressive win. The long-time rivals meet at the MCG on Saturday afternoon. The Swans will look to bounce back against the Brisbane Lions on Sunday at the SCG.
CARLTON 1.3 5.4 10.7 15.7 (97)
SYDNEY 3.2 6.6 8.10 11.12 (78)
Carlton: Wright 4, Casboult 2, Kreuzer 2, Weitering, Petrevski-Seton, Simpson, C. Curnow, E. Curnow, Cripps, Smedts
Sydney: Papley 2, Hayward 2, Franklin, Heeney, Hannebery, Kennedy, Jones, Sinclair, Parker
Carlton: Docherty, Murphy, Wright, Simpson, Cripps, Casboult, E. Curnow
Sydney: Lloyd, Heeney, Parker, Kennedy, Papley
Carlton: J. Silvagni (right shoulder), Weitering (corked thigh), Fisher (hamstring)
Sydney: Rohan (concussion), Grundy (concussion)
Umpires: Findlay, Harris, McInerney
Official crowd: 32,678 at the MCG
Dejected Swans Sam Reid and Lance Franklin after yet another loss. Picture: AFL Photos