THE Sydney Swans accept they face a real litmus test of their AFL finals credentials against Essendon on Saturday as they try to break their recent boom-bust cycle.
Over the past month, Sydney have veered from very bad to very good after starting the season with five straight wins.
Comprehensive 29 and 28-point losses away to Richmond and St Kilda in Melbourne were followed by thumping 101 and 92 point SCG victories over Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.
Sitting in fifth spot with a 7-3 record and a healthy percentage of 141.66, Sydney face a six-day turnaround before playing second-placed Essendon in Melbourne.
“If you want to challenge for the finals, you’ve got to beat the top sides,” Sydney veteran Ryan O’Keefe told reporters on Monday.
“It’s going to be a great test for us and we’ll see how we go against a top four side.
“I think if you do really want to contend for the premiership, a top four spot is ideal but there’s a lot of games to go before you can start worrying about that.
“I think once you start looking too far ahead, that’s when you come crashing down to earth.”
O’Keefe denied the Swans felt out of their comfort zone when they played outside Sydney.
“It doesn’t make a difference really, two of our losses were away games,” O’Keefe said.
“But we’ve won away games (this season against Port Adelaide and Hawthorn), so I think generally our away record has been reasonably good.”
O’Keefe anticipated a backlash from a Bombers outfit chastened by their shock six-point loss to Melbourne.
“They are going to come out firing for sure, they are a great side and they are sitting equal top for a reason,” O’Keefe said.
“They are going to come out fierce and we’ve got to brace ourselves and get ready for a pretty big battle.”
Asked how Sydney could break the boom-bust cycle of the last month, O’Keefe said: “We’ve just got to make sure we just put that consistent work on the track.
“Constantly keep trying to improve and tweak things to get better.
“It’s probably been a bit disappointing we’ve been a bit up and down the last few weeks, but hopefully we can start getting the side settled again and get a couple of players back.
“Mummy (ruckman Shane Mumford) coming back yesterday was really good.”