Fans the world wide of many professional sports, have seen their favourite teams dominate the regular season and earn a much needed break ahead of playoff or finals series, only to be ambushed by a team that had to go down to the wire to qualify.
That is exactly what happened to the Sydney Swans in the 2016 Toyota AFL Premiership competition, as the pre-finals week league-wide bye before the beginning of the finals killed their momentum. The Swans finished the home-and-away season at the top of the table, only to come back and find that they had left their form elsewhere and suffer a qualifying final loss to the GWS Giants.
The Swans did manage to overcome that 91 – 55 loss and make it to the Grand Final, but Sydney Coach John Longmire is hoping to avoid a similar scenario this year.
For the moment, with one final game remaining against the lowly Carlton Blues, the Swans are set to establish a never before seen precedent by qualifying for the finals after losing their first six games of the 2017 AFL season. They certainly seem the team of destiny of the moment, after defeating the Geelong Cats by 46, crushing the Fremantle Dockers by 104 and sneaking past the Adelaide Crows by three on the Crows’ Adelaide Oval home ground.
Last year was the first time the AFL inserted the bye week following the home-and-away season, so in the view of Longmire, the effect of the extended season does not supply any conclusive evidence as to the effect of the break, but it does introduce some variables that can be confounding to coaches. Said Longmire, “It’s a bit tough looking at it in a one-off instance and getting a really strong opinion of it. What I do know and what will stand the test of time is you need to play really good footy for a month. We’d like to play good footy for five weeks.”
Longmire is hoping his side can repeat the pattern formed by the Western Bulldogs last season, who entered the finals knowing that they needed four wins to secure the premiership.