Even Sydneysiders who don’t follow AFL couldn’t be ignorant of the Swans’ exhilarating Grand Final triumph down in Melbourne. From the newspapers to the victory parade through the CBD, the euphoria has been palpable and inescapable.
The Sydney Swans won a thriller of a Grand Final by 10 points over the Hawthorn Hawks on a cold night at the MCG.
The 99,683-filled stadium witnessed a tug-of-war in the closing stages. Sydney was leading by 28 points early in the third quarter, then Hawthorn overhauled them by 12 points behind during the final period, only for the Swans to prevail in the end 14.7 (91) to 11.15 (81).
Things were extremely tense late on when David Hale and Lance Franklin put the Hawks 12 points ahead, but Sydney (underdogs from the outset) rose magnificently to the challenge. Three late goals from Dan Hannebery, Kieren Jack and Adam Goodes saw John Longmire’s team go seven points ahead with seven minutes left.
Hawthorn scrapped desperately but Jack Gunston and Brad Sewell came up with three missed shots before Sydney’s Nick Malceski slotted the winning goal 38 from full-time. So the jubilant Swans won their fifth ever premiership, which is only their second since 1933.
O’Keefe, Hannebery (29 possessions), Kennedy (26 touches) and McVeigh (21) were absolute workhorses in midfield. Malceski, Jack, Kennedy, McVeigh and Mitch Morton all kicked two goals.
Swans midfielder Ryan O’Keefe, a member of the club’s 2005 premiership-winning side, was the deserving recipient of the Norm Smith Medal for his dominant, all-action performance. The former forward, now 31 years old, produced 28 possessions, four inside 50s and one score assist. He also won 12 of his possessions against the Hawks in contests, had seven clearances, and a game-high 15 tackles.
“[The premiership medal] is the one that matters, the [Norm Smith] is a bonus,” a modest O’Keefe said. “The only reason I got the other one is because of the rest of my teammates. Everyone played their role, cracked in [and] really dug in when the Hawks had the momentum.”
Bob Skilton Medal – Josh Kennedy
Midfielder Josh Kennedy won this one after registering the highest number of votes ever recorded in the annual Club Champion vote count. The 24-year-old garnered 877 votes for the season, which was over 170 points clear of the runner-up, defender Ted Richards (705 votes). Kennedy also finished the year as the AFL’s leading contested possession winner and leading clearance player, and was named on the interchange of the 2012 All-Australian team.
Rising Star Award – Alex Johnson
Defender Alex Johnson played every single match for the Swans in 2012. Since debuting for the club in round 3 just last year, the 20-year-old has missed only two games and has racked up 45 games and a premiership for the Swans.
Dennis Carroll Trophy (Most Improved Player) – Lewis Jetta
The 23-year-old had a very inconsistent 2011 season which saw him miss out on the finals campaign, but his hard pre-season training certainly paid off this year. Jetta finished the season as the Swans’ leading goalkicker with 45, and has become a deadly weapon in the team’s attack. Jetta also played in every game this season.
Paul Kelly Players’ Player Award – Josh Kennedy
This award, which has been won by Adam Goodes for the last three seasons, is based on the weekly votes of senior team mates. Kennedy played every game in 2012, and was the dominant force in the team’s midfield. Kennedy was also the top Swan at this year’s Brownlow Medal count.
Barry Round Shield (Best Clubman) – Nick Smith
Defender Nick Smith rarely hogs the spotlight on match days, but his input has not gone unobserved this year. Smith has established himself as a leader in the defensive line-up and was at his best in last weekend’s Grand Final win, keeping Hawthorn star Cyril Rioli goalless for the match.
Paul Roos Award (Best Player in the Finals Series) – Ryan O’Keefe
The clear standout in the Swans’ finals campaign and averaged 33 disposals across the three finals matches. He was dominant in the team’s Qualifying Final win over Adelaide, collecting 37 disposals including 26 kicks. The midfielder got even more ferocious in both the Preliminary Final and the Grand Final, registering 11 and 15 tackles respectively in each match. As previously mentioned, he won the 2012 Norm Smith Medal in last week’s Grand Final victory.
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