SYDNEY has all but secured a finals spot and can now target a top-four finish, but its form and performances since the bye show it has a style full of the substance needed to be a genuine premiership contender.

The Swans weren't even mentioned in the pre-season captains' tips of top-eight chances, but with a hot streak of four wins from the past five games, they have surged into being one of the flag fancies following a brilliant start to the season that few saw coming. 

They have turned the screws on their strengths and polished their approach in some critical areas that Champion Data has found separates premiership contenders from pretenders.

We take a look at how the Swans rate in some significant statistics and compare them to the five teams currently above them on the ladder. 

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Keeping it tight

If premierships are built on defence, then the Swans certainly have the foundations in place to push deep into September.

They have conceded the second-fewest points in the past five rounds (avg. 59.4), trailing only Geelong (56.6). Across the entire season, Sydney's defence ranks sixth (74.2) with only the five teams higher on the ladder giving up fewer points.

The Swans' backline ranks third in the key category of opponents scoring from inside 50 entries, limiting rivals to scores from just 39 per cent of entries in the past five weeks. Melbourne (34.9 per cent) leads in this area in the past five rounds with the Cats (41 per cent) fifth, while teams have found it easier to score once inside 50 against the Bulldogs (45.1 per cent, 14th) and Port Adelaide (46.3 per cent, 17th).

Sydney's Dane Rampe in action against Port Adelaide in round 15, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

The low number of scores and scoring opportunities conceded is partly due to the likes of Dane Rampe and Tom McCartin preventing opposition key forwards taking too many marks close to goal. The Swans are third for marks conceded inside 50 across the past five matches (ave 9) behind the Demons (6.8) and Cats (8.4), and just ahead of the Power (9.6).

The Swans' defensive strength begins further up the field with intensity around the ball, as the Swans' average pressure rating (1.88) leads the League this season. That pressure has nudged up in the past five matches (1.91) and is equal second with Port Adelaide in that time, while Brisbane (1.76) trails in 16th.

SWANS' DEFENSIVE STATS

 

R15-19 ave 

R15-19 rank

Season ave

Season rank

Points conceded

59.4

#2

74.2

#6

Opposition scores per inside 50

39%

#3

42.3%

#7

Opposition marks inside 50

9

#3

9.4

#3

Pressure rating

1.91

#2

1.88

#1

Threat from turnovers

Swift transitions from defence to attack have been a feature of the Swans' dazzling re-emergence, as the penetrating and precise kicking of Jordan Dawson, Jake Lloyd and, more recently, Nick Blakey, regularly slices through the opposition.

The Swans have led the League at scoring from turnovers all season (avg. 57.5 points) and they've increased this in the past five weeks (62.6) while getting even better at preventing the opposition from doing the same.

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In the crucial category of scores from turnover differential, the Swans have gone from second across the season (avg +14.2) to lead the competition over the past five weeks (+26). The Lions (+12.2) are ranked third and the Power (+8.8) fourth in the past five rounds, while the Bulldogs (+7.2), Demons (+4.4) and Cats (+3.4) are seventh to ninth.

The Swans' threat from turnovers is helped by a stunning capacity to counterattack, and they are among the top four at scoring from the defensive half both in the past five weeks (avg 31.8 points) and across the season (33.7). The Cats (36.6 points) lead this area in the past five weeks with the Lions (32.8) third, but the Bulldogs (26.4, 13th) and Demons (25,6, 15th) will want to improve their transitions.

SWANS' TRANSITION STATS

 

R15-19 ave 

R15-19 rank

Season ave

Season rank

Scores from turnover

62.6

#1

57.5

#1

Scores against from turnover

36.6

#4

43.3

#5

Scores from turnover differential

+26

#1

+14.2

#2

Scores from defensive half

31.8

#4

33.7

#3

Firing up forward

A forward line that includes Lance Franklin (39 goals), Tom Papley (30) and Isaac Heeney (28) has been among the most potent all season but the Swans have been even more damaging in the past five rounds and scored the second most points (ave 92.8) in that time, behind only the Lions (94.8).

The Bulldogs (88.2, third), Cats (82.6, fourth), and Power (78.8, sixth) have also hit the scoreboard regularly in the past five weeks but the Demons (70.6, 14th) have found it far harder.

In scores from the forward half – another key category pointing to premiership potential – the Swans have risen from third to be the best in the competition in the past five rounds (avg. 54.4 points). The Bulldogs (51.6, second) and Lions (49.8, third) have also excelled in this area recently.

The Swans' ability to score from their front half is boosted by their forward pressure, as they average the most forward 50 tackles this season (12.3), and lead both forward-50 tackle differential (+2.8) and forward-half intercepts (27) in the past five rounds.

HOW THE SWANS FARE IN ATTACK

 

R15-19 ave 

R15-19 rank

Season ave

Season rank

Points scored

92.8

#2

88.1

#3

Scores from forward half

54.4

#1

47

#3

Forward half intercepts

27

#1

24.9

#4

Forward 50 tackle differential

+2.8

#1

-0.3

#6

Room for improvement

The Swans' midfield includes inside bulls like Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Callum Mills but they will want to improve their impact at stoppages and in contested ball battles around the ground in the coming weeks. George Hewett moving from defence back to an on-ball role since the bye should provide a lift in this area.

Sydney's George Hewett in action against GWS in round 18, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

The five teams above the Swans on the ladder rank among the top four in the past five weeks for clearances differential (Bulldogs avg. +7.8, first) or contested disposals differential (Demons +18.4, first), while the Swans have been mid-table in both areas in recent weeks and across the season.

The Cats' strength around the ball is shown by being ranked second for both clearances differential (ave +6.6) and contested disposals differential (+12.8) in the past five weeks.

SWANS IN THE CONTEST

 

R15-19 ave

R15-19 rank

Season ave

Season rank

Clearances differential

-1.2

#12

-0.7

#10

Contested disposals differential

+0.4

#10

-2.7

#11

The Swans' form and performances since the bye are even more remarkable when you consider they have come after the club was forced to flee NSW with a mere four hours' notice on June 22 and have been living away from home since then.

But with few injuries, a relatively young group on the rise and a game style full of substance, the resurgent Swans are now a genuine contender to claim one of the most astonishing premierships.