JUST four rounds into the season, crunch time has well and truly arrived for the under-fire Sydney Swans, judging by the grilling Kieren Jack received at his press conference on Monday.
Leading into 2014 many pundits considered it was a fait accompli three teams would occupy the top three spots on the AFL ladder at season’s end – Hawthorn, Fremantle and the Swans.
The Hawks and Dockers have largely followed the script, currently first and fifth respectively through four rounds.
But the Swans are languishing in 13th place, already two wins and a whopping 50 percentage points behind the current No.4, West Coast.
Opening the year with losses to Greater Western Sydney and Collingwood, most felt the ship had been righted in the Swans' 63-point belting of Adelaide in round three.
But the troubles were still there for all to see when the Swans slumped to a 43-point thrashing at the hands of North Melbourne on Sunday at their former fortress, the SCG.
The final quarter was six-goals-to-two to the far hungrier and more committed Kangaroos and Jack feels they simply wanted it more.
"It is a concern," Jack said. "It comes down to a will of wanting to win.
"Both teams were tired going into that last quarter, but we still felt confident, but when they kicked a couple it seemed to get away from us.
"That's disappointing, that's something we need to rectify and find some answers to pretty quickly."
Some statistics make for some alarming reading for Swans fans, particularly when it comes to the club's midfielders.
Jarrad McVeigh, Dan Hannebery and Jack were all first-time All Australians last season, but the production of all three has dipped significantly this season.
The drop off from Norm Smith medallist and former club champion Ryan O'Keefe is perhaps most alarming, with his average possessions dropping from 25 per game in 2012 and 23 last season to just 11 this year.
There can be many reasons for a stat like that, including players being used in different roles and getting more attention from taggers.
But it is clear the Swans' engine room needs to lift, something Jack conceded.
"Yeah look I need to stand up," the co-captain said.
"I haven't been performing as well as I would've liked. I'm in the same boat as the rest of the team.
"We're 1-3 and individually a lot of players need to lift.
"I've probably individually got myself to a level where teams are starting to look at me, which is different to the past when I've been the tagger.
"So that's something I need to learn to work through.
"It is a midfield versus midfield battle and if your midfield gets on top, generally it doesn't matter if you're getting tagged or not.
"We lost some key battles in the midfield and it doesn't help when your outside players like myself and Dan Hannebery and Lewis Jetta can't get on the end of it because we're not winning the midfield battle inside."
Swans coach John Longmire is also copping some heat for the first time in his time in charge.
Longmire was considered out-coached by commentators such as Gerard Healy and Jason Dunstall in round two, when Magpie defender Nick Maxwell was the spare man in defence and caused the Swans all sorts of headaches.
This week on AFL.com.au's Access All Areas, Garry Lyon judged Longmire to be "worst on ground" from round four for his performance against the Roos.
"Paul Roos great big tick, big cross for John Longmire," Lyon said.
"I know Scott Thompson is a terrific player and North Melbourne were magnificent, let's get that straight, but (Longmire) left Scotty Thompson essentially on his own.
"He had 10 possessions in the first quarter, he had 15 possessions by half-time, he ended up with 24 for the game – this is your full-back.
"He went at 92 per cent disposal efficiency and got no pressure put on him.
"The Swans went with (talls Lance) Franklin, (Tom) Derickx, (Lewis) Roberts-Thomson and (Mike) Pyke in a hurricane up there, whereas the other side dropped (late withdrawal, ruckman Daniel) Currie out.
"They got it wrong at the selection table (and) they got it wrong with the way they structured up."
Franklin once again seemed to capture plenty of the heat from sections of the media seemingly in a hurry to label the $10 million man the reason for the Swans' malaise.
Jack said it was only natural Franklin would be feeling pressure.
"He might be," he said. "We're all feeling pressure.
"We're 1-3, we need to perform. He's a focal point up forward, he knows that, he's a big signing, I'm sure he is (feeling pressure).
"He's only human."
But the reality is far too many Swans are out of form and not doing their part.
"He's not alone," Jack said. "He didn't play well yesterday, I don't think there were many that did."
There were plenty more questions thrown at Jack from a media pack that has swollen noticeably this year.
Team changes could be in order this week, with Jack declaring: "If you're not performing, you can't get picked."
The media event had a very different tone to a typical Monday recovery session for a team that has made the finals in 10 out of the past 11 seasons and won two flags in that time.
The blowtorch is well and truly on and their next task is the visit of a Fremantle side that roared back to form against Essendon on Sunday.
But Jack is backing his troops to bounce back.
"We're confident," he said. "We've done it before.
"We've got a group that we know is competitive and we're confident can get us to where we need to get to.
"At the moment we're in a bit of a slump and we need to work together extremely hard to get out of it."
AVERAGE DISPOSALS FOR SYDNEY SWANS MIDFIELDERS 2012-14