THE FIRST two rounds was the Sydney sugar rush, but this was the Swans' statement.
After their shock win over Brisbane in round one, and last week's thrashing of Adelaide at the SCG, the Swans faced their early-season validation against Richmond on Saturday. Now we can say it’s official: the red and white are back.
A stunning eight-goal second quarter propelled the visitors to a 17.15 (117) to 10.12 (72) thrashing of the back-to-back reigning premiers, in an outclassing that was easy to see but much harder to believe.
It was the half-an-hour of power that saw Sydney jump to a 40-point half-time lead over the Tigers, who were unorganised, out-hustled and completely dominated by the young Swans at the MCG. That they never let them back into the contest told another story of their growth.
The highlights were everywhere: Chad Warner (20 disposals, two goals) was a force, Errol Gulden and Logan McDonald delighted in the front half, Sam Wicks emerged and Nick Blakey ran and ran. But it is the mix of Sydney's exuberant youth with its polished professionals that has it 3-0 at the start of a season for the first time since its 2016 Grand Final campaign.
Co-captains Josh Kennedy (27 disposals) and Luke Parker (29) helped the Swans smash Richmond's feted midfield, as well as Rising Star winner Callum Mills (31), while ruck recruit Tom Hickey exposed the Tigers by floating forward with two valuable goals and 15 hit-outs.
Richmond supporters would have struggled to remember their side being beaten like this. Superstar Dustin Martin tried but was subdued, while gun forward Jack Riewoldt had no impact. The Tigers' hard-to-penetrate defence was also separated and opened up, making scoring easy for the Swans. The loss of triple-premiership midfielder Dion Prestia to a hamstring strain in the first quarter further soured their afternoon.
The signs were there early for the Swans, who arrived undaunted by their opposition. They deserved a bigger lead than eight points heading into the second term, but were clearly buoyed by their start when the improving Warner powered a goal through to kick-off the second term, before Papley snapped one from the pocket.
TIGERS v SWANS Full match coverage and stats
Richmond threatened to strike back with consecutive goals, but it was Sydney's response which set up the win. It was not a counterstrike but a full-blown assault.
McLean, in for the missing Lance Franklin, stepped up with a set shot, before Wicks did the same. Isaac Heeney curled another through, before Warner busted through a tackle and smashed through a long goal. McDonald trickled one from the top of the square and then Wicks booted a composed kick after a free kick on the half-time siren.
Richmond's credentials meant they were considered a possibility for a second-half comeback only for a moment, but it was never allowed. On a 30-degree April day the only thing brighter than Melbourne's weather was Sydney's performance.
'RICHMOND-LIKE' Hardwick sees shades of premier in Swans win
Eight months ago Richmond coach Damien Hardwick hit out at Swans counterpart John Longmire's defensive game-style after a "horrible" and "farcical" match-up between the clubs. On Saturday, the Swans kept their average at 121 points for the first three games of this season.
Before Saturday, Sydney youngster Sam Wicks may have been best known for his boot incident last year that accidentally slashed open Collingwood opponent Isaac Quaynor's leg. Certainly the Tigers didn't seem to know much about Wicks given the space they afforded him inside 50 at the MCG, but Wicks showed he is a real talent in the front half. He has speed, a steady set shot and booted two vital second-term goals, with another coming in the third. He also grabbed 13 marks – 12 of which were uncontested – showing the medium forward's ability to find room, and finished with 22 disposals. In just his 10th game, the Swans Academy product was a fire-starter and will command more attention from here.
Sydney's NAB AFL Rising Star three-peat?
In round one Errol Gulden claimed the Rising Star nomination, and teammate Braeden Campbell backed it up last week as round two's nominee. Chad Warner will have to be right in the mix to make it three from three for the Swans after another eye-catching display against the Tigers. Warner was excellent against the Crows in round two with 20 disposals and two goals, and backed that up against the Tigers. The robust and powerful West Australian looks a player in the making, with fellow WA product Logan McDonald also pushing for a Rising Star nomination any minute.
Not Dusty's day
We have become so used to Dustin Martin stepping up when Richmond needs him that whenever he doesn't, it is so obvious. Martin worked into the game against Sydney after a quiet start and finished with 20 disposals, but he was more rushed and ineffective than usual, with many of the three-time Norm Smith medallist's kicks thrashed forward without much direction and his standard class. Swans gun Callum Mills worked well against Martin at the stoppages, with teammate Luke Parker also helping to nullify the 29-year-old's impact.
RICHMOND 1.3 4.6 7.9 10.12 (72)
SYDNEY 2.5 10.10 15.12 17.15 (117)
Richmond: Lynch 3, Castagna 2, Rioli 2, Riewoldt, Edwards, Aarts
Sydney: Papley 4, Wicks 3, Heeney 2, Hickey 2, McDonald 2, Warner 2, Parker, McLean
Richmond: Short, Baker, Lambert, Castagna, Lynch
Sydney: Wicks, Papley, Mills, Parker, Florent, Kennedy
Richmond: McIntosh (concussion), Prestia (hamstring), Cotchin (hamstring)
Richmond: Rioli (replaced Prestia)
Sydney: Bell (unused)
43,637 at MCG