SYDNEY has snatched a dramatic two-point win over Geelong at the SCG, where young forward Hayden McLean upstaged Coleman medallists Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron.
Tom Papley snapped the match-winning goal with 91 seconds remaining as the Swans prevailed 14.6 (90) to 12.16 (88) on Saturday night.
SWANS v CATS Full match coverage and stats
The hosts trailed for most of the match and looked on track for defeat late in the final quarter, when Luke Dahlhaus put the Cats ahead by 10 points.
But young gun James Rowbottom nailed his set shot then Papley brought a crowd of 29,123 to its feet, ensuring Sydney snapped a two-game losing streak.
Power forwards Hawkins and Cameron combined for four goals.
Hawkins missed two important set shots in a frantic final quarter, while Cameron was controversially denied a mark in the final seconds that would have given him a chance to put Geelong back in front.
McLean stood up for the Swans in the absence of injured key forwards Lance Franklin and Sam Reid, booting a career-best four goals to build hope of an upset that looked all but impossible at quarter-time.
McLean created all sorts of headaches for Geelong's star-studded defence, clutching contested marks that belied the fact he was a 22-year-old playing his 14th game.
The Cats, fresh from steamrolling West Coast by 97 points, kicked six goals in the opening term to post the highest quarter-time score achieved by any side this season.
The besieged hosts rallied in the second quarter, trimming the visitors' advantage from 29 points to six points thanks to returning ruckman Tom Hickey plus Jake Lloyd and Oliver Florent.
There were seven lead changes throughout a topsy-turvy second half, yet the youth-fuelled Swans pulled ahead when it mattered most.
Cats forward Gryan Miers (leg) and Sydney defender Lewis Melican (hamstring) suffered injuries, while Swans co-captain Luke Parker was reported for rough conduct after a clumsy collision with Brad Close.
The visitors were left to curse their inaccurate goal-kicking and the remarkable conversion rate of Sydney, who lost the inside-50 count 65-39.
Should Jezza have been paid a mark at the death?
Geelong thought it would have one final chance to win the match when Jeremy Cameron marked the ball in the pocket. But the umpire deemed the ball hadn't travelled the required 15m from Brad Close's boot. From the resulting boundary throw-in, Joel Selwood wrapped up James Rowbottom in a tackle, but the Swan was saved from a potential holding the ball free kick by the final siren.
Parker on report for rough conduct
Luke Parker was one of Sydney’s best on the night but he’ll be sweating on the outcome of a report for rough conduct in the second term. Brad Close was on the ground after ducking one Sydney tackle, when Parker approached sliding on his knees at speed as he went to tackle but caught the Cat on top of his head. In Parker’s favour is that Close was able to get up and play out the match. It’s the sort of incident that probably would’ve cost the Swans co-captain only a free kick when he started his career in 2011, but with the increased focus on protecting the players’ head the cost could now hit his pocket too.
Selwood tackles his way to another title
Joel Selwood is one of the most decorated players in the game as a three-time Premiership winner, six-time All-Australian, three-time Carji Greeves medallist and nine-year Geelong skipper. He’s now added another title to the long list of accolades, as the player with the most recorded tackles in the history of the game. Selwood wrapped up seven tackles against Sydney, to take his career tally to 1633 and pass former West Coast star Matt Priddis’s total. Selwood has averaged more than five tackles in his 317 games, and while the new record won’t be his crowning achievement it’s another reminder of the ferocious and fearless way that he plays the game.
SYDNEY 2.1 7.2 10.6 14.6 (90)
GEELONG 6.5 7.8 10.10 12.16 (88)
Sydney: McLean 4, Florent 2, Papley 2, Warner, Gulden, Stephens, McInerney, Hickey, Rowbottom
Geelong: Cameron 3, Rohan 2, Close 2, Miers, Menegola, Duncan, Hawkins, Dahlhaus
Sydney: Mills, Hickey, McLean, Florent, Rowbottom, McCartin
Geelong: Guthrie, Selwood, Duncan, Stewart, Cameron, Henry
Sydney: Melican (hamstring)
Geelong: Miers (lower leg)
Sydney: Ryan Clarke (replaced Melican)
Geelong: Zach Guthrie (replaced Miers)
Crowd: 29,123 at the SCG