The Tamworth Kangaroos stayed alive this season with a 15-point win over the Swans at No.1 Oval, with Roos coach Tony Bishop attributing his side’s gradual improvement to a revamped defensive structure.
The Kangaroos leapfrogged the Swans into fourth on the ladder, knocking the Swans out of finals contention, ahead of the Roos’ final-round clash against sixth-placed Narrabri at No.1 Oval this Saturday.
Whoever wins the Kangaroos-Eagles clash will advance to the finals, joining Inverell, Gunnedah and New England.
With the Kangaroos fielding an inexperienced squad and struggling badly, Bishop switched from a man-on-man defence to a zone defence about two months ago.
“Even when the Swans beat us the second time, I still had my eye on [the finals],” he said. “I’d been developing a system with the game we play which is gonna help young people a bit better than the traditional way we play, and that seems to be getting better every week.
“Whether it’s good enough to beat those top three side is another thing. But we’re gonna put ourselves into a position to compete – we’re gonna give it a red hot crack if we get the opportunity.”
Against the Swans on Saturday, the Kangaroos won 13.7-85 to 10.10-70. The Swans would have locked up fourth spot had they won.
The Roos kicked four goals to one in the first quarter to lead by eight points, before the Swans booted five goals to two in the second quarter to lead by two at the main break.
The Roos had a dominant third quarter and led 12.7-79 to 7.9-51 heading into the final term.
Kangaroos forward Dan Overeem played his 300th game, an AFL North West record, and also became the first player to kick 1000 goals – his five majors taking his career tally to 1003.
Bishop said: “I still think we’ve got improvement in us, even though it’s getting late.”
Swans coach Paul Kelly said his players were "pumped” just to be in the position they were after a winless 2017.
“From where we finished last season, to play in a big game where we could play in the finals [with a win] was pretty exciting as a club and hopefully we will push those bigger teams further next year,” he said.