Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin slammed his team’s effort as “not up to AFL standard” after Sydney dealt a major blow to the Demons’ finals chances with an upset victory in Cairns on Thursday night.
The loss, which angered club great Garry Lyon, was compounded by injuries to midfielder Angus Brayshaw and veteran Nathan Jones, who are both in doubt with the short turnaround for the club’s clash with Fremantle on Monday.
Having fought their way back into the eight with a stirring win over St Kilda, the Dees undid that good work with a substandard performance against a side which started the round in 16th position.
They were beaten by a Swans side missing Lance Franklin, Isaac Heeney and Dane Rampe, and further weakened by the late withdrawal of gun defender Callum Mills.
Melbourne legend Lyon lamented the Dees’ poor first half, saying it was typical of the club, which has played in one finals series since 2007.
“This is such a Melbourne thing to be doing at the moment, as much as I hate to say it,” Lyon said on Fox Footy. “Get themselves in the eight against a team said to be down below them, no intensity.”
With their season on the line, Goodwin’s men were out-worked by a Swans side that has been out of finals contention for some time.
The club made a preseason documentary titled To Hell and Back, which inferred they would return to the finals after a ghoulish 2019, but their finals fate is now in the balance.
Our ability to win critical contests in the first half, we got out-worked and execution wasn’t up to AFL standard, and we paid a price in that first half.
The warning signs were apparent from the first bounce when the Swans were able to walk through several tackles. Alarm bells were ringing by half time when they trailed by 28 points after a run of five unanswered goals for the Swans.
Goodwin was fuming at the Demons’ first quarter when they managed just two goals despite a strong wind at their back.
“Incredibly frustrating first half. I thought our start was really poor,” Goodwin said.
“Sydney were really good, they came, they hunted, had really good pressure. Our ability to win critical contests in the first half, we got out-worked and execution wasn’t up to AFL standard, and we paid a price in that first half.
“That was really frustrating. Second half we worked our way back in the game. We had good opportunities, the game looked more like our type of game, we couldn’t execute in front of goal.”
Skipper Max Gawn, Ed Langdon and Bailey Fritsch all missed relatively simple shots to make a game of it in the last term.
The Dees should start favourite in two of their remaining three games, though they were unable to handle the expectation against the lowly Swans. The game against fellow finals aspirant Greater Western Sydney could decide their season.
“I think we’re still right in the mix but we’ve got to play better,” Goodwin said. “We can’t have games or halves where it’s non-existent, and that’s what we had today.
“We had a half that wasn’t to the level. We’ll go away and get ourselves right in four days’ time. There’s still plenty to play for in this season but we need to be better. That was far from the quality of footy we need to play and far from a team that will challenge.”
The Dees had won four of five since receiving a public bake by chairman Glen Bartlett but this loss was a big step back, Goodwin said.
“There’s periods in this season we’ve seen that progression and there’s periods we just regress,” Goodwin said. “It can only be a quarter or a half but you pay the price. We’ve got to mature.”
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald