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Last time we met the Swans

Gary Stocks  June 14, 2018 12:00 PM

Last time we met the Swans In the first ever game at Optus Stadium, it was Sydney who took the points behind Buddy Franklin's eight goals

The occasion was momentous. The West Eagles playing the first AFL game at Optus Stadium in front of the biggest football crowd ever assembled in Western Australia.

In front of those 53,553 fans the club unveiled three debutants in the same game for the first time since 1996. Lithe Subiaco forward Liam Ryan, the WAFL’s star attraction of the previous two years, father-son recruit Jake Waterman and midfielder-forward Daniel Venables were elevated to senior football.

There was also a tiny focus on the return of West Coast big man Nic Naitanui, the human newsreel who creates hysteria in his home town when he buys a coffee.

With all of those peripheral stories oscillating around the build-up, the game itself was almost lost. Not internally, where Adam Simpson and his coaching staff were more than aware of the significant challenge that Sydney represented, but perhaps externally among the fans.

As the Swans flew into town it was almost predictable that their star forward Lance “Buddy” Franklin would excel in that environment. Few enjoy the big stage more than he does and he virtually single-handedly eclipsed the Eagles.

He kicked eight goals from all imaginable circumstances. On the run from outside 50, from a strong mark, off his preferred left foot and even a dribbler off his right. He kicked them from everywhere.

While Franklin basked in the spotlight, the Eagles still had their moments. And they mainly centred around the inspirational efforts of Naitanui, playing his first game in 18 months after suffering a serious knee injury.

Naitanui was on managed game time, but after the Eagles trailed by 26 points at half time, with the game appearing to slip from their grasp, Naitanui produced some trademark physicality, following up a contested marking effort with a ferocious tackle when the ball hit the deck.

He converted from the resultant free kick and in concert with Mark LeCras, who kicked a goal after the three-quarter time siren, the margin was just five points and the Eagles had the momentum.

Unfortunately, the break interrupted the flow, the Swans responded and left the first game at the new stadium with the points.

The 29-point margin was not a true reflection of the contest as Sydney kicked a couple of goals in junk time.

Round 1 v Sydney
Sunday, March 25 - Optus Stadium

Sydney                           5.1          9.5          11.6        18.7        115
West Coast Eagles            4.2          5.3          10.7        13.8        86
Goals – West Coast Eagles: LeCras, Darling 3; Hurn, Masten, Duggan, Ryan, Naitanui, Waterman, Yeo.
Sydney: Franklin 8; Hayward 2; Lloyd, Towers. Heeney, Jack, Jones, Hewett, Kennedy, Parker.