THE SYDNEY Swans have stormed into their second Grand Final in three years, swatting aside North Melbourne by 71 points in a one-sided preliminary final at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
With Lance Franklin (five goals) pulling the strings in a best-on-ground display, the Swans marched to a 19.22 (136) to 9.11 (65) triumph that will only enhance their standing as premiership favorites.
The Kangaroos offered some brief resistance in the first and second quarters, but they were a long way short of the Swans' standard in front of a crowd of 48,209.
The Swans now await the winner of Saturday's second preliminary final between Hawthorn and Port Adelaide, as the Harbour City club gets set to play their fourth Grand Final in the past 10 years.
Franklin, who had been held without a goal in his previous two match-ups with Scott Thompson, toyed with the North defender this time around, finishing with 23 possessions, 11 marks and 5.2.
But he had help all over the ground from a rampant Swans outfit.
The Swans' star-studded list had been expected to reach a Grand Final for much of 2014, but coach John Longmire said afterwards
his team's performance was about more than just its blue-chip stocks.
"It's not just about the talent," he said.
"It's about Harry Cunningham coming off the rookie list, it's about Nick Smith playing on the opposition's good players, it's about Luke Parker, who's a really good player (and) pick 40 in the draft.
"Blokes that work hard and do offensive-defensive team football. That's the sort of footy we play.
"I know some of the focus from outside (is on the talent), but we really pride ourselves internally on our two-way football game.
"It takes 22 players to play that."
Friday night's win was the ninth for the Swans in 10 finals played at ANZ Stadium, while the home side beat North Melbourne for the eighth time in their past nine meetings, the only loss in that period coming in round four this year when the Roos kept the Swans to their lowest score of the season – 6.12 (48).
Outclassed on Friday night, North can still be incredibly proud of its performance in 2014, winning two knockout finals and making the final four from sixth place on the ladder.
It was all the more impressive given the Roos missed the finals 12 months ago, but Friday night was an indication of what is required to find a way into the last Saturday in September.
North Melbourne had won its past six matches coming into Friday night, but the Kangaroos' first preliminary final appearance in seven years ended much like their last in 2007, when they lost by 87 points to Port Adelaide.
Ben Brown continued his impressive emergence in the Roos' forward line, kicking two first-half goals in just his 11th AFL game.
Ben Cunnington, Levi Greenwood and Nick Dal Santo also had their moments, while Drew Petrie kicked 3.4, but it was a long night for Brad Scott's men.
Brent Harvey, who beat a one-game suspension at the AFL Tribunal during the week to take his place in the line-up, was well beaten by Harry Cunningham on a tough evening for the 36-year-old.
"We didn't execute what we wanted to to the best of our ability, but there's a suspicion that even if we did, we were outclassed," he said.
"Full credit has got to go to an outstanding football team in the Swans.
"They were terrific in the contest, really efficient, and punished us for every mistake we made. That's the hallmark of a really good side building towards a great side.
"While we didn't think we were at our best, I'm not sure even that would have been good enough."
The only concern for the Swans was an apparent right leg injury to Sam Reid, who was subbed out of the game early in the final term, but they are otherwise flying towards this year's decider.
The Kangaroos settled better than the home side in the opening term, kicking the game's opening goal through Brown.
But that was about as good as it got in the first term for the visitors, with the Swans slamming through the next four goals for a 21-point quarter-time edge.
Yet that only served to inspire the Swans, which booted four of the next five goals to break the game wide open.
Some of the Swans' run and carry was devastating, moving past the stagnant North Melbourne defenders with ease.
During one period, the Sydney side registered 15 inside 50s to three as it kept the ball pinned in North's defensive zone for long periods.
By three-quarter time, the Swans' lead was 52 points, and they could start thinking about another Grand Final appearance.
Adam Goodes celebrated his 350th game with a berth in another Grand Final. Picture: AFL Media.
SYDNEY SWANS 4.5 9.10 13.17 19.22 (136)
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.2 4.4 6.7 9.11 (65)
Sydney Swans: Franklin 5, Tippett 4, Parker 3, Goodes 3, Jetta, Jack, McGlynn, Bird
North Melbourne: Petrie 3, Brown 2, Goldstein, Greenwood, Harvey, Atley
Sydney Swans: Franklin, Parker, Kennedy, Rohan, Tippett, Cunningham, Jack, McGlynn
North Melbourne: Cunnington, Brown, Greenwood, Dal Santo
Sydney Swans: Sam Reid (right knee)
North Melbourne: Scott Thompson (corked hip)
Sydney Swans: Sam Reid (right knee) replaced by Craig Bird at three-quarter time
North Melbourne: Aaron Black replaced by Ryan Bastinac in the third quarter
Umpires: Nicholls, Meredith, Pannell
Official crowd: 48,029 at ANZ Stadium