ST KILDA: 5.0 7.5 9.8 11.10 (76) SYDNEY: 4.1 8.4 16.7 23.8 (146)
By WILL ZWAR
Sydney has strengthened their premiership credentials after a dominant 70 point win against St Kilda in the AFL’s first ever Pride Match.
The match aimed to tackle homophobic attitudes in the community as well as send a message that AFL games are becoming inclusive spaces for the LGBTI community.
It was supported by ambassadors including St Kilda’s Sam Gilbert and Jason Ball, the first gay male footballer at any level of AFL competition to publicly come out.
Led by Lance Franklin (six goals, 28 disposals), Dan Hannebery (37 disposals), Josh Kennedy (35 disposals) and Brownlow hopeful Luke Parker (three goals, 33 disposals) the Swans kicked 15 goals to four after half time to obliterate the Saints’ slim finals chances.
Meanwhile, David Armitage (29 disposals) and Seb Ross (28 disposals), along with veterans Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt were best afield for St Kilda.
The win puts Sydney in a favourable position leading into the finals as they boast the greatest percentage in the league and with 15 wins to date, they look set for a home Qualifying Final.
The Saints will see out their season with a favourable draw, but have only personal pride to play for as they farewelled their 2016 finals hopes.
Earlier, a tense opening term saw free-flowing play and goals galore, as St Kilda edged to a five-point lead at quarter time.
No.1 draft pick Paddy McCartin opened the account for St Kilda with a solid mark and goal, before Sydney responded with two quick goals to Xavier Richards and captain Kieran Jack.
However, St Kilda would not be blown away as the two teams traded early goals.
Sydney would start the second term stronger, as Richards kicked his second goal and Sam Naismith added his first, both relatively simple shots from the goal square.
But a long range bomb from Saints defender Sean Dempster reduced the margin to just one point, as the two teams continued to go blow-for-vlow in front of goal.
Sydney’s maturity and experience would eventually see them come out firing in the second half, led by Franklin with 15 disposals and three goals for the term, including one of the goals of the year from 50m out after a collision that would end Sam Fisher’s night.
The Swans eventually kicked eight goals to two in the third stanza, taking a 41-point advantage into the final change.
The Swans continued where they left off, with Kennedy kicking their first goal of the last quarter after just 37 seconds before, they piled on another six goals for the term with the assistance of three consecutive 50 metre penalties.
Running out 70-point winners, the Swans’ dominant performance gave the squad a great percentage booster and continued their momentum heading into the finals series.
Next week, the Swans will travel to Blundstone Arena in Hobart to face a fierce North Melbourne side, who will be desperate to sure up their position in the top eight.
For the Saints, they will take on the Tigers in the hope of giving their fans one of their last encouraging performances for the year.
THE WRAP-UP GOALS St Kilda: McCartin 2, Armitage, Membrey, Weller, Wright, Dempster, Acres, Montagna Sydney: Franklin 6, Richards 3, Papley 3, Parker 3, K. Jack, Hannebery, Naismith, Nankervis, Heeney, Kennedy, Hewitt, McVeigh BEST St Kilda: Armitage, Riewoldt, Montagna, Ross Sydney: Parker, Franklin, Kennedy, Lloyd, Hannebery INJURIES St Kilda: Geary (back, replaced in selected side by McKenzie), Hickey (left ankle), Fisher (jaw, hamstring) Sydney: None REPORTS: Nil UMPIRES: Nicholls, Schmitt, Fleer OFFICIAL CROWD: 33,059 at Etihad Stadium