Bontempelli lifts wounded Bulldogs to victory
Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli shamelessly rebelled against NSW's attempted ban on Melburnians, steamrolling his second Sydney outfit in successive weeks on a dark night for the Swans.
Bontempelli absorbed the fierce bullying tactics of GWS last week, and then dished out some punishment of his own on a woeful Sydney in a resounding 67-39 triumph.
Sydney was fresh from a resounding win over North Melbourne the previous weekend, but was brought crashing back down to earth with the worst first-half score the club has ever produced in their long and proud history on home SCG deck.
Sydney's nine points at the main break eclipsed a previous low of 12 - and, for the first time this season, the huge absence of goalkicking maestro Lance Franklin hit home, with ball of energy Tom Papley (four goals) the Swans' only real threat in front of goal.
In more shattering news for the Swans, ruckman Sam Naismith's career could be in jeopardy after he suffered another ACL injury.
Naismith spent the best part of two years out of the game rehabbing and only returned this season.
"Unfortunately we think he's done his knee," Swans coach John Longmire said.
"We'll confirm it with a scan but it looks like he's done his knee."
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said Naismith's injury was "quite tragic for him and the Swans. Best wishes to him."
Football must have been the furthest thing from Josh Kennedy's mind following the sad passing of his legendary grandfather John Kennedy Sr earlier Thursday morning but, in a fitting moment, the Swans skipper kicked a goal.
The Bulldogs' flying 19-point advantage at quarter time looked under severe threat midway through the second quarter when Aaron Naughton left the field with what appeared a serious ankle injury suffered in an awkward marking contest, before Sam Lloyd was also forced off with a possible shoulder or collarbone problem after being pushed off the ball by Swans backman Aliir Aliir.
However, in the flash of an eye, the AFL's youngest captain Bontempelli rallied, going forward in Naughton's absence to kick massive back-to-back goals to pilot the visitors to a decisive 30-point halftime lead.
A fortnight after walking into a firestorm as skipper of a team down 0-2 and facing a humiliating slide, Bontempelli has led from the front and suddenly the Bulldogs have rediscovered their mojo and are alive again in 2020.
"First half, he ignited us. Gave us the momentum," Beveridge said.
"That mark going back to the flight (on Sydney star, Isaac Heeney), the force he hit that with - if you're not inspired by that as a teammate you never will be.
"I thought he was quite brilliant for the first half and really solid after that. And he weathered the storm second half as the Swans came a bit."
The one chink in the 24-year-old's armour has always been his set-shot goalkicking - but he nailed two big goals in the second quarter as well as taking a stunning mark on Sydney prodigy Isaac Heeney that will be replayed for the rest of the season.
The double blow of losing Naughton and Lloyd was compounded by Bailey Dale being reported on the spot by the field umpire after charging at Sydney defender Robbie Fox from behind with his forearm raised.
The lack of contact and the fact Fox got straight back up might save Dale, but it still looked like being a costly win for the Bulldogs.
Beveridge said he hadn't seen footage of the incident but he praised young ruckman Tim English for his powerful performance in the middle of the field.
"Tim English was one of our key competitors who needed to stay out there pretty much the whole game," he said.
"His ruck work was as impactful as it has been and his game in the turnover side of things was influential.
"He's growing all the time."
In an extraordinary display of family unity and strength, Josh Kennedy's parents still made the nine hour drive from Melbourne to Sydney yesterday to watch son Josh's 250-game milestone.
On an emotion-charged day for one of football's finest families, following the death of John Kennedy Senior, all there was to do was to be together.
Just taking the field last night was a courageous performance in itself for Swans co-captain Kennedy, who was clapped off the field.
His last-quarter goal, which gave the Swans half a sniff of a comeback, was another touching sign the football Gods were watching from above - as father John, himself an AFL legend, sat watching in the SCG terraces.
Sydney players wore black arm bands to honour the passing of one of the icons of the game, who at 91, lost his battle to ailing health just weeks after being inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame as a Legend.
Papley's four-goal heroics saved some face for the Swans but they were once again forced to lament the fact they're the worst starters in the AFL.
A shocking first quarter cruelled them against Essendon a fortnight ago, and last night's insipid first-half performance once again left coach John Longmire scratching his head.
Without Franklin, Sydney simply doesn't have a presence who commands the ball upfront.
Midway through the second half, the Bulldogs had kicked 7.2 from their set-shots as opposed to Sydney's 1.6.
At one point the Bulldogs led the Swans 10-0 for contested marks - an extraordinary statistic.
Despite the quality of last night's performance, the Bulldogs will be sweating on the fitness of Naughton, after one of the AFL's brightest young stars went down with a nasty ankle injury early in the second quarter.
Naughton missed four weeks in 2018 with a left ankle problem, and could be facing another lengthy spell on the sidelines, as the Bulldogs face an anxious wait for scans.
The 20-year-old went down after landing awkwardly following a collision taking a flying mark and was assisted straight from the field and down to the SCG rooms, limping noticeably on his left leg.
Beveridge conceded Naughton leaves an enormous hole heading into next week's clash against North Melbourne.
"That's the key word isn't it. We need to adapt. He started the game off in good fashion Naughts," said Beveridge.
"He looked really threatening and as we keep saying, he's only a 20-year-old key forward who is going to be a very influential player over the journey.
"We will miss him but we'll find a way and someone will come in and play a role and hopefully maybe there's a miracle and he plays next week. Who knows. If he's out he's going to be a difficult player to replace."
The injury opens the door for former No.2 draft pick Josh Schache or Lewis Young to come into the Dogs' line-up for next Saturday night's clash against North Melbourne.
Premiership player Tory Dickson shapes as the man to come in for the injured Lloyd.
SYDNEY 0.1 1.3 2.8 5.9 (39)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.2 6.3 7.4 10.7 (67)
Swans: Papley 4, Kennedy
Bulldogs: Bontempelli 2, Dale, Naughton, Lloyd, Vandermeer, Bruce, West, Macrae, English
BEN HORNE'S BEST
Bulldogs: Bontempelli, English, Smith, Macrae, Dale, Daniel
Swans: Papley, Parker, Lloyd, Kennedy
BEN HORNE'S VOTES
3 - Bontempelli (WBD)
2 - Tim English (WBD)
1 - Tom Papley (Syd)
Swans: Naismith (knee)
Bulldogs: Naughton (ankle), Lloyd (shoulder)
Bulldogs: Dale reported for charging Fox in the third quarter
Originally published as Bont lifts wounded Dogs as Swans set SCG futility record