It could have gotten very ugly after a slack first quarter, in which Brisbane booted five goals to one and established a handy 28-point lead.
But the young Swans – shorn of some of their biggest and most experienced names, including Lance Franklin for the second straight week – got themselves back in the contest and kept themselves there in difficult, slippery conditions against a team many have tipped for a serious finals assault.
There were plenty of moments when the Lions should have twisted the knife – they smashed the Swans in contested possessions, 183 to 142, and had 37 more inside-50 entries – but Sydney took advantage of their profligacy, ambushing the hosts in the second term and briefly putting themselves in front.
In the third, Brisbane got back out to a 19-point lead and had their tails up only for Tom Papley to fire back with two stunning goals, one after the other, to cement his reputation as Sydney’s most dynamic attacking option outside of Buddy.
Papley’s double was followed by a long-range captain’s salvo from Josh Kennedy, which chopped the margin back to just two points and gave them genuine hope. But that was as close as they got, as the Lions eventually clicked into gear and confirmed a win that should never have been in danger.
Papley finished with 4.3 and 18 disposals, while George Hewett had a game-high 34 touches. But the Swans are now 1-6 – as they were at the same point two years ago after facing the same opponent. Sydney’s 2017 campaign pivoted on a big win over the Lions and they went on to play finals. History won’t be repeating.