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Sydney Swans loss to Geelong Cats, big grand final losses, fallout, analysis, response, feature, John Longmire, list

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It’ll be a long six months ahead for the Sydney Swans.

John Longmire’s side will be licking its wounds after getting blown off the park by Geelong in an 81-point grand final obliteration on Saturday – Sydney’s biggest ever loss in a decider.

And really, the Swans never looked like throwing any genuine punches in the one-sided contest and comprehensive performance from the Cats.

It comes despite Sydney going into the game with all momentum, having won nine-straight games including emphatically ousting Melbourne in the first week of the post-season and then Collingwood in last weekend’s preliminary final before the Magpies’ late fightback.

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This is a new-age Swans outfit stacked with talent and strong blend of trusty veterans, like Luke Parker, Lance Franklin and Tom Hickey, with rising stars, such as Chad Warner, James Rowbottom and Errol Gulden.

Despite the experienced crop of stars, Sydney’s list is among the youngest in the league and it’s expected to challenge for flags in the many years ahead behind its promising young core.

They may have been a little ahead of their time in that sense in taking on Geelong’s veteran brigade that was due for a flag in this year’s grand final.

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If only it was so easy to guarantee the Swans would get back there though.

As the old saying in sports goes, success isn’t linear. Just because a team’s trajectory is pointing upwards and it has all the tools to continue to improve, it doesn’t mean that it necessarily will.

Although in very different positions considering they actually climbed the mountain, the youngest premiership teams of the AFL era – Collingwood (2010), Essendon (1993), the Western Bulldogs (2016) and West Coast (1992) – failed to add another flag with their respective crops.

It’s proof of how valuable being in a position to challenge is, no matter how ready a team may appear to be, and the importance of taking those chances.

Just ask some of the clubs who got oh so very close.

Ross Lyon’s Saints played in two losing grand finals and another losing preliminary final, but have no silverware to show for all their regular season success including finishing on top of the ladder in 2009.

Then Lyon’s Dockers played in a losing decider and a further losing prelim while claiming the minor premiership in 2015, again, without a premiership to their name.

Another side seemingly destined for success was the GWS Giants of recent years that were loaded with stars. But for all the talent on their list, GWS only played in one grand final in a 89-point loss to Richmond in 2019.

It’s the latest example from many sides – mainly from interstate clubs – to get crushed in grand finals and derail after being left emotionally scarred.

Don’t underestimate what such a big loss on the grandest AFL stage could potentially do to the Swans.

Perhaps most notoriously, Port Adelaide was decimated by Geelong by 119 points in 2007 in a disastrous day for the Power. Port dropped off a cliff from that point, falling to 13th the following season and not playing finals again until 2013 – the year Ken Hinkley first took the helm.

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In fairness to the Power though, their 2007 side was at the end of a long run of constantly challenging for flags, unlike Sydney’s more youthful list.

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In the 2017 decider, Richmond put away Adelaide by 48 points in what was ultimately a blowout. The Crows have never really recovered, but of course, the club’s infamous pre-season camp the following summer also played a big role in its downfall.

The aforementioned 2019 Giants missed finals the season after losing to Richmond, and the Western Bulldogs lost last year’s clash to Melbourne by 74 points and haven’t looked the same since.

The brutal reality for Sydney is that, even if it’s not left as scarred as some of those teams – and their 2014 side that lost to Hawthorn by 63 points under Longmire is an exception in a promising sign – it simply may not get there again.

It’s the exact point dual All-Australian Leigh Montagna made about Collingwood when its “fairytale” season came to a crashing halt last weekend at the hands of the Swans, saying he thought the Pies let an opportunity “slip” and that this was their big chance to claim silverware.

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Even just making a preliminary final is tough enough, let alone going one step further and winning it. There’s only one team that’s lucky enough to win it, and 17 other sides are ultimately left disappointed no matter how far they go.

Plus while the current Swans clearly have serious upside and talent, the likes of Melbourne, Collingwood, Fremantle, Brisbane, Richmond and Carlton will also be keen to bounce back and also have all the tools to go with potential trade period additions.

Geelong itself has had several years of finals shortcomings including losing four preliminary finals and a grand final since 2016 prior to Saturday’s triumph. You then saw all that emotion and sense of relief come out from Geelong’s ageing stars who’ve fallen short in September on a number of occasions in recent times.

In saying all this, if there’s any club you’d back to pick itself up from the canvas and go again, it’s Longmire’s Swans.

This is a team that lost key players in Jordan Dawson and George Hewett last off-season, yet still significantly improved in evidence of the internal development.

There’s a reason they’ve been so consistent and only missed finals twice under Longmire’s watch. It’s a proud club with an iconic ‘Bloods’ culture that could well possess the best young talent of any side in the competition.

But the hard work is all ahead of the Swans again now, where they’ll hope Saturday’s grand final failure is the making of them – not the alternative.

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