Swans still a force without star Lockett

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 September, 1996, 12:00am

In an emotional weekend of Australian Football League games, the reality of a national code was hammered home to Victorian fans who have seen an interstate side finish top of the ladder while losing a club and facing the prospect of hosting only one match of next weekend's qualifying finals. Sydney out-muscled West Coast in the mud at home to win by 35 points and claim minor premier honours for the first time.

As South Melbourne, the Swans last finished on top in 1945, the year they lost an infamous 'bloodbath' grand final to Carlton. The Swans 12.13 (85) to 6.14 (50) victory was convincing in the absence of star forward Tony Lockett with a knee injury which is expected to mend by next weekend. Sydney will play eighth-placed Hawthorn at the SCG on Saturday night after the Hawks scraped in by one point against Melbourne.

Hawthorn hung on to beat Melbourne 15.12 (102) to 15.11 (101) and steal eighth spot on the ladder. Skipper Jason Dunstall was the Hawks' hero with 10 goals including his 100th of the season in the final term. Fitzroy players wept openly at Fremantle yesterday as their club's 113-year-old history ended with an 86-point thrashing at Subiaco. To the strains of Auld Lang Syne, a crowd of 22,000 watched the Lions trudge off after predictably losing, 24.13 (157) to 10.11 (71). Fitzroy now merges with Brisbane.

The closeness of the competition was illustrated on Saturday when 11th-placed Collingwood knocked Brisbane from top perch with a 49-point thumping at Victoria Park. The Magpies relegated Brisbane to third place (and a qualifying final clash against unpredictable Essendon at the Gabba on Saturday night) with a memorable 15.10 (100) to 6.15 (51) win. North Melbourne secured a finals double chance and ended Richmond's season with a 32-point win at the MCG yesterday. The Roos led by only two points at the last break, but finished over the top of the tiring Tigers, kicking nine goals to romp home 21.15 (141) to 16.13 (109). North took over second place and will meet Geelong next Sunday at the MCG.

Carlton maintained the jinx over Geelong that resulted in last year's premiership humiliation to thrash the Cats by seven goals at Kardinia Park.

The Blues dominated on every line to relegate Geelong to seventh spot and a sudden-death finals series by winning 16.11 (107) to 9.11 (65). Geelong will now meet back-to-form North Melbourne in the third qualifying final at the MCG on Sunday.