When the siren sounded to mark half-time, this game was shaping as one of the more bizarre matches of an already extraordinary season. Despite being comprehensively beaten in almost every key stat, 17th-placed Sydney were on track to upset one of the leading premiership contenders.
What happened in the ensuing 50 or so minutes of play reinforced why this may be the Swans' worst season since the dark days of the early 1990s.
Star midfielder Adam Treloar is one player added to Collingwood’s injury ward.Credit:Getty
On a night of carnage for Collingwood, the Magpies at least left the Gabba with the premiership points after a vital but unconvincing nine-point win over the Swans – 6.14 (50) to 6.5 (41).
"Clearly they had more scoring shots than us but if you've got the ability to get to two points with eight minutes to go you're every chance of grabbing it," Swans coach John Longmire said. "It was disappointing we made a couple of blues in the last five minutes which meant we didn't get it done."
The victory came at a heavy price for the Magpies, who finished the game with just one fit player on the bench after losing Will Hoskin-Elliott, star midfielder Adam Treloar and exciting youngster Isaac Quaynor to injury.
The match was stopped for several minutes deep into the last quarter as Quaynor was transported off the Gabba.
It was unclear from the replays how the youngster was hurt but the care in which he was treated by medical staff, who were holding his leg, suggested the injury was serious. Photos circulating on social media showed a large gash to his thigh.
Hoskin-Elliott limped off in the first term after Jordan Dawson accidentally fell across his right knee in a marking contest and did not return. Nor did Treloar, who headed down the race in the third quarter.
It adds to an already crowded casualty ward for the Magpies, who were without skipper Scott Pendlebury and their best player at either end of the ground Jordan de Goey and Jeremy Howe.
It took a miracle intervention from the son of a gun, Josh Daicos, in the dying minutes to shake off the gallant Swans. Daicos' snap from the boundary was the equal of the many his father Peter kicked during his decorated career.
The young Swans led by 14 points seconds before the long break but a true set shot by Jamie Elliott after the siren sparked a run of four unanswered goals.
Against the grain, perhaps due to the Magpies' injury toll, the Swans came back in the last term but will rue missed shots from Sam Reid and Tom Papley.
That the Swans were still in the game until the final minutes was a reflection of the Pies' wastefulness with the ball, and not just in front of the big sticks. In truth, the margin should have been significantly more.
It was mission accomplished for Nathan Buckley's men but this was not the performance of a side tipped by many to challenge for the flag.
The Pies smacked the Swans in the clinches, winning the clearances 34-24 and the contested possession count 134-108, while the inside 50 count was also lopsided (50-33). But their ball use was shoddy, and their goalkicking frustrating. A better side would have made them pay.
"Sometimes you have to learn the hard way," Longmire said. "We certainly learnt from an A-grade quality midfield tonight, there was no question about that, which put us on the back foot."
The Swans can be proud of the resilience they showed under constant attack but lack the polish and composure to win regularly.
There will not be much to cheer about in terms of wins but as long as their youngsters keep improving they can be optimistic for the future.
The most impressive was Dylan Stephens, who though a long way from the finished product is already indicating why the Swans used their prized No.5 pick on him.
His preparedness to take the game on is consistent with the verve and dare the new-look Swans are attempting to play with. His fast play on and raking left foot set up a goal for James Bell in the second term and minutes later he found one for himself despite heavy attention from Brayden Sier.
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