Written by AFL Online on 27th Aug 2007
Sydney will play finals football this season but their hopes of securing their second premiership in three years are over.
Sydneyâ€™s success over the past few years has been built around their ability to limit the number of injuries to key players and virtually name the same side week in, week out.
While this is good in the short-term it does prevent younger players from getting an opportunity at senior level and leaves sides lacking depth – the Swans have been sorely exposed in this area this season, with their dream run with injuries coming to a screeching halt.
Full-back Leo Barry has missed the past four matches with a hamstring strain while centre-half-back Lewis Roberts-Thomson has been out the entire season.
While hard-running defender Tadhg Kennelly, who is arguably Sydneyâ€™s most important player, alongside Barry Hall has been in and out of the side this season due to a knee injury.
The loss of Barry, Kennelly and Roberts-Thomson has left the Swans sorely exposed down back – in 21 games this year the 2005 premiers have conceded just one less point than they did for all of last year’s home and away series.
The Swans’ loss to Collingwood at the MCG last weekend – combined with wins for the Kangaroos and Hawthorn – means Sydney cannot finish any higher than seventh come the end of the home and away season next week.
This means Sydney faces the insurmountable task of winning three successive knockout finals on the road if they are going to feature in their third straight grand final.
Would Sydney be struggling as much as they are now if they didnâ€™t have such a dream run with injuries during 2005 and 2006?
Injuries can be a long term bonus with West Coast a case in point. When then number one ruckman Michael Gardiner went down with a serious knee injury in round 17, 2004 against Port Adelaide it was seen as a massive blow for an Eagles side that was sitting in second place on the AFL ladder – his replacement was Dean Cox.
Fast forward three years and Cox is regarded as one of the premier ruckman in the competition and has the potential to be greater than Geelong legend Graham “Polly “Farmer, if you listen to respected journalist Mike Sheahan, while Gardinerâ€™s career has been plagued by off-field indiscretions and injury.
The loss of former skipper Ben Cousins for the first 15 rounds of the season due to his highly publicised battle with substance abuse is another perfect example of when a negative can be turned into a positive. Many so-called experts expected the loss of Cousins to severely affect the reigning premiers, but 2006 Sandover medallist Matt Priddis more than adequately covered the loss of the Eagles champion.
Priddis was instrumental in West Coastâ€™s come from behind win against St Kilda at the Dome last weekend with a game-high 36 possessions, including six valuable clearances.
Would Priddis have been so far along in his development at AFL level and be able to have such an impact had it not been for the opportunity given to him due to Cousinsâ€™ off-field discretions?
Itâ€™s highly unlikely.
The Chinese word for crisis is opportunity. This is particularly apt when it comes to describing a poor run with injuries – they may be a curse in the short term but they help clubs develop their lists and strengthen their depth, which is vital for any side that wants to remain at the top for an extended period.