Ahead of Sydney’s against Port Adelaide, Swans forward Will Hayward will be looking to answer the question: is he in Sydney’s best team?
For the first time in his 70 game career, Will Hayward found himself on the outer at the Sydney Swans.
When the team was announced for Sydney’s first game of the season, Hayward was named as the medical sub, and when the Swans went on a tear across the first four rounds, on the back of the youth brigade who took the competition by storm, it looked like a long way back for Hayward.
It might have taken an injury to versatile forward Isaac Heeney for Hayward to find his opening, but the 22-year-old went about cementing this position in the most emphatic way possible.
Hayward had 18 disposals, three tackles, and kicked 3.1 in his return game in round five and has not missed a game since. The former South Australian said the challenge for him has been cementing his position in a team that’s competing for a top four berth.
“It’s been good to come back into the team and play a role and play quite consistently,” he said.
“To have a bye last week was really convenient for me, to still be able to come and play Port this week, so really, [I’m] just enjoying it and I’m grateful to be in the side.”
One of the key features of Sydney’s season so far has been youngsters getting opportunities to be part of their best 22, namely Errol Gulden, Sam Wicks and more recently Joel Amartey,
At the same time there has come a steady stream of goals from Hayward. Since his return, he has kicked 13 goals from eight games, kicked multiple goals four times, and scored at least one goal in his last four games.
Yet despite his strong form, Hayward remains aware of the pressure for spots in Sydney’s best 22.
“It’s very competitive for spots,” he said.
“I think it’s the best problem to have at a footy club. We’ve seen Errol and what he did earlier in the year, the impact he’s had.
“And, more recently Joel’s come in, he got given an opportunity and he’s taken it with both hands. It’s very competitive but it’s also very good to see it, it keeps everyone a little more motivated to go out and play their role.”
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Hayward’s run of good form and his position in the team were back up in the air a fortnight ago, when he was subbed out of Sydney’s loss to Hawthorn with concussion.
In a fortunate turn of events for the 22-year-old, the bye came at the perfect time, giving him ample opportunity to recover and be ready for the crucial game against the Power.
“Nah, all good. On a personal level, I’m fine, and from a team perspective, we’ve reviewed it and moved on and shifted our focus to Port Adelaide.”
The Swans face a daunting challenge when they come up against the Power in Adelaide.
Port Adelaide has dominated against Sydney since 2016, winning the last four contests between the two sides. Despite the poor recent record, Hayward is optimistic the Swans can surprise on Saturday.
“I think if we bring our pressure, and our hunt on the opposition, we can let our game flow from there. They’re a great side, they’ve shown that last year, and what they’ve been able to do this year,” Hayward said.
“It’s going to be a tough game, it’s always going to be a tough contest against Port, but we’ve got some systems in place that we can hopefully implement to help us win.”
The Swans and Power face off at Adelaide Oval at 4.35pm AEST on Saturday afternoon.