AFL – Swans surge into flag contention

After a dominant last month of footy, Sydney have more than halved their AFL Premiership price as they surge into 2022 flag contention.

The fallout was brutal four weeks ago after Round 16 when, comfortably leading a lowly Essendon side in the final term at the MCG, the Swans fluffed a number of chances in front of goal and let the Dons overrun them in a big upset. Obvious questions emerged post-match. ‘If Sydney can’t hold a lead against a side like Essendon at the MCG, how will they get it done in September, against far tougher sides, at the same venue?’. The Swans, who had been there or there abouts in flag betting, especially after knocking off reigning premiers Melbourne in AFL Round 12, saw their price balloon out to $18.

But something flicked after that defeat. They’ve not only won four in a row since, but done so in dominant fashion and by an average of 44 points. And their flag price has come in weekly, now into $7 with Palmerbet. So, how did they get there and can they go all the way?

Manic pressure, fast starts

Slow starts threatened to derail Sydney’s season earlier this tear. Before the bye rounds, the Swans were outgunned in first halves against not only by the likes of Carlton and Richmond, but lowly sides like Hawthorn and North Melbourne. This has completely flipped in recent weeks, and John Longmire’s men have become one of the AFL’s best-starting sides. Against Adelaide, for instance, they banged through nine goals in the first term, which was their best return since 1997.

Another reason behind the Swans’ resurgence has been a return to their DNA. And that is, a manic pressure output that welcomes the contest and gives away little. Across the season they’re now the number one pressure team. Further, they’re the number one AFL team in pressure differential in the last month. “Three of their best five performances for the year have come in their last four games. They’ve ramped up,” Nathan Buckley noted this week on SEN radio. “They’ve narrowed their focus on, ‘we’re going to put absolute heat on the opposition and that’s going to kickstart our game’.”

Gap emerges

With Sydney’s emergence, combined with Geelong and Melbourne’s continued dominance, has a gap emerged between the haves and have-nots in 2022? AFL Premiership betting would suggest so. With the Cats and Dees at $3 and $3.30 respectively and Sydney at $7, the next-best Lions are at $12. North Melbourne legend and SEN Radio pundit David King said the divide was now apparent. “I just think there’s a bit of a gap now. To me, there’s only three that can win it,” he said earlier this week. “We talk about the premiership runway, that you’ve got to have your game in great order, particularly defensively in the last four to six weeks as a run-in to the finals…The teams that are in good order defensively are Sydney, Geelong, Collingwood are in really good order defensively but they’ve got other warts…and Melbourne.”

Top 4 beckons

History shows that, with the exception of the Western Bulldogs in 2016, a Top 4 finish is almost a precursor to AFL Premiership success. And the Swans have almost nailed down a position inside. Having played the bulk of their tough games to date in 2022, a run home of North Melbourne, Collingwood (at home) and St Kilda are all games they will likely start as favourites in. From that defeat to Essendon, they’ve shortened from $3.75 into $1.14 in Palmerbet’s Top 4 market. If results go their way, they could even sneak into second and earn a home qualifying final.