Brodie Grundy and Max Gawn.
Brodie Grundy has won the ruck battle over former Dees teammate Max Gawn to help Sydney to victory. Image by Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

Grundy, Swans surge past Melbourne in AFL season opener

Shayne Hope March 7, 2024

Sydney recruit Brodie Grundy has played a starring role in a first-up win over his former team, leading the Swans to a tough 22-point victory over fellow flag hopefuls Melbourne in the AFL season opener.

Grundy was involved in an absorbing ruck battle with ex-teammate Max Gawn as Sydney piled on four consecutive goals at the start of the final term to seal a 12.14 (86) to 9.10 (64) triumph in front of 40,012 fans at a sold-out SCG on Thursday night.

Isaac Heeney stepped up in a Swans midfield missing injured guns Callum Mills, Luke Parker and Taylor Adams, tallying 26 disposals, 18 contested possessions, one goal and a career-best 13 clearances.

Chad Warner (26 touches, one goal), James Rowbottom (21 possessions), Errol Gulden (20) and Nick Blakey (26) were also busy, while Hayden McLean and Will Hayward kicked two goals each.

Hayden McLean.
 Hayden McLean kicks one of Sydney’s 12 goals in the win over Melbourne. Image by Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS 

Grundy, who left Melbourne for a third club during last year’s trade period, finished with 22 disposals, nine clearances and 31 hitouts to edge Gawn in their personal duel.

He used his body well at ruck contests to limit the influence of Gawn (15 disposals, two clearances, 39 hitouts) and gradually ground down his opponent with help from McLean.

“His second half was huge. He just kept going and kept ploughing through,” Swans coach John Longmire said of Grundy.

“His second and third efforts and his work around the footy was enormous.

“I just feel really pleased for him. He’s got that one out of the way and now he can settle into his season and get into it.”

Fellow former Demon James Jordon had 18 disposals and seven tackles in his first appearance against his old side.

The Swans were well beaten in contested possession during the first half (80-61) but dominated that statistic after the main break (87-64) against Melbourne’s vaunted midfield.

They also won clearances 45-34 and Demons coach Simon Goodwin conceded his team had lowered its colours in an area that is usually a strength.

“When you lose (contested possession) by nearly 30 in the second half it’s going to put every phase of your game under enormous pressure,” Goodwin said.

“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Sydney; they were outstanding in that phase of the game, especially after halftime.

“You could see that’s what made the game swing their way.

“If you’re going to lose by that amount against really good teams, they’re going to make you pay.”

Bayley Fritsch booted three goals in the third quarter to briefly give Melbourne the lead – and finished with four – before they faded late in warm and slippery conditions.

Steven May was brilliant in defence but the Demons’ scoring issues at the other end – a point of focus over summer – again reared their ugly head.

They managed just 2.8 from 29 forward entries in the first half and trailed by seven points at the main break.

Jack Viney (31 disposals, seven clearances, two goals) and Christian Salem (27 touches) fought hard against the tide for Melbourne and Clayton Oliver (29 disposals, six clearances) did well in his first senior game after a turbulent off-season.

It was a bruising contest, with Dees defender Jake Bowey sidelined after hurting his right shoulder in a collision with Justin McInerney.

Sydney face another huge test when they meet reigning premiers Collingwood in a Friday night blockbuster next week, while Melbourne have 10 days until their home game against the Western Bulldogs.