1. A rematch, of sorts
For only the second time in their history, the Dogs were able to unfurl a premiership flag, which they did ahead of Friday night's encounter with the Swans who they beat by 22 points in last year's Grand Final. This was the Grand Final rematch, but both sides were very different to the teams that took the field on the first Saturday of October last year. The premiers had seven new faces – headlined by returning captain Bob Murphy – and the Swans picked eight players who didn't feature in last year's decider, including Sam Reid and Aliir Aliir. With Tom Papley, Isaac Heeney and Gary Rohan out injured, the Swans were missing three of their top four leading goalkickers from last season too. In another brilliant contest, the Dogs were too strong for the Swans to win by 23 points.
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2. Rushed or not rushed?
The Swans trailed by 22 points at three-quarter time but hit the lead after some Lance Franklin brilliance at the start of the last term, when the superstar forward kicked three quick goals to edge his side in front. The Bulldogs took back the lead when Marcus Bontempelli kicked a major, before a contentious call against Callum Mills all but ended the Swans' attempts at victory. With the ball bouncing towards the Dogs' goal, the young Swans midfielder punched it through for a rushed behind from inside the goal square. However, with closest opponent Liam Picken metres away, the umpire judged that Mills wasn't under sufficient pressure to push the ball through. Picken took the free kick and snapped a goal that put the Dogs ahead by 10 points and gave them enough breathing space in a classic encounter.
Plucky Picken haunts the Swans again
3. Reid ready for step up
Sam Reid's 100th game for the Swans couldn't have started much better, with the key forward taking a pack-splitting mark in the opening minute and converting his shot. He kicked three for the quarter and was imposing in the air. Reid continued to be the Swans' main avenue to goal throughout the game, particularly after Kurt Tippett went down with an ankle injury midway through the first term. Reid finished with six goals in a commanding display – the equal best haul of his career – and was dangerous throughout. If Tippett is set for an extended stint on the sidelines, Reid, who didn't play a senior game last year, looks ready for the responsibility that will be thrust his way.
4. Swans' youth impresses
The Swans' recruiting team walked out of last year's NAB AFL Draft beaming that they had snared Will Hayward at pick 21. The South Australian bolted into first-round contention late in the season with a brilliant end to the year, including a nine-goal haul in the SANFL under-18s preliminary final. Sydney unveiled the exciting, jumping half-forward against the Dogs on Friday night, and he showed his poise and marking ability at different stages of the night. Hayward gathered 16 disposals and did enough to suggest we'll see him more this year. Fellow Swans debutants Robbie Fox (13 disposals) and Nic Newman (15, one goal) were also good in their first AFL games, which was a positive takeaway for the club as it heads back to Sydney with back-to-back losses to open the season.
5. Lin's in
One of the Bulldogs' seven new faces from last year's Grand Final side was Lin Jong, who missed the premiership after a collarbone injury in the elimination final win over West Coast. Out of contract at the end of last season, Jong toyed with heading to Gold Coast in the off-season but he chose to stick with the Dogs and re-signed, and he put in an excellent performance against the Swans in the Bulldogs' star-studded midfield. Jong's toughness and ability to burst out of a stoppage proved hard to contain as he collected 23 disposals and seven tackles, and he also kicked a vital goal in the second quarter from deep in the forward pocket. Jong's kicking needs improvement but his effort and intensity give him the capacity to impact a game.