15/04/2024

Image: Sydney Swans/Twitter

After two rounds of the 2023 AFL season, the Swans are sitting comfortably on top of the ladder with back-to-back wins over the Suns and the Hawks. They face their first real test on Sunday when they travel to the MCG to face the Melbourne Demons.

Sydney has won four of the last six encounters between the two clubs, most recently being the 22-point win in last year’s qualifying final at the same venue. Though the Swans will have four players missing from that fixture- Tom Hickey, Sam Reid, Ryan Clarke and Robbie Fox.

The Demons are expecting to be boosted by the return of Steven May who missed last week’s loss to Brisbane. Meanwhile, Max Gawn has begun his four-to-six week rehabilitation program for the MCL injury he suffered in the 11-point loss at the GABBA.

The Demons have confirmed 19-year-old Jacob Van Rooyen will make his debut against the Swans.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Sydney Coach John Longmire says the two big wins are already in the past and will have no effect on the Melbourne clash.

“I look at every week individually,” Longmire said.

“There’s no bigger challenge than the next game, and Melbourne is just a high-quality team. Just because of what they’ve done over the last few years.

“You look at their players. Their playing list is outstanding, their midfield is as good as any going around, their defence is extremely well structured. They play a really good quality of footy that holds up at the business end [of the season].

“It is a big test, we’re not shying away from that. We know it’s going to be a tough one, their form over this season so far has been really strong. I know they got beaten last week, but their form has still been very strong.”

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Despite notching up strong wins, the Swans have been beaten in clearances in both games to start the season. Melbourne has been one of the strongest clearance teams over the past few years, using their stoppage work to gain the upper hand in games.

Longmire knows what to expect from the Demons, and says he’s addressed the things his team needs to work on for Sunday afternoon.

“We’ve got plenty of areas we want to improve in,” he told reporters.

“There’s been things in the last two games that we’ve identified [to improve on], and that [clearances] is one of them.

“The good thing about last week is they [Hawthorn] didn’t have that many effective clearances, as in the distance and the scores they got from clearances. We just want to keep applying pressure around the ball and if things don’t go well we can recover our position and get in a position to attack.”

Sydney is still missing a host of names to injury and will be without key names for a number of weeks, though Lance Franklin will return to the side at the expense of one of the younger talls. Longmire says their rehab group is tracking well and there’s been no major setbacks.

“Ryan [Clarke] and Robbie [Fox] won’t come back this week, they trained well today but aren’t back in contention at this stage,” he said.

“Jacob [Konstanty] is coming along okay, he’s just starting to do some training now. We’re just conscious that he had a bit of a hot spot in his shin and we don’t want to push a first-year player too hard.

“[Sam] Reid started off a bit slowly, but had a good running session today. So we’re hopeful he’s starting to turn a corner, fingers crossed he pulls up alright from that. He did some change of direction running and felt better, not at 100 per cent yet, but definitely better.

“Tom [Hickey] ran today, he’s been jumping and we’re hoping to get him into some more training next week. We’re being cautious there since he’s had a couple redoes of the same injury, it’s going to be a slower build for Tom.”

Following a combined nine goals from young keys Logan McDonald and Joel Amartey, as well as Hayden McLean providing a secondary ruck option. Longmire will have his work cut out for him when deciding how to fit superstar forward Lance Franklin back into the team.

“We’re not sure [who comes out] just yet,” he said.

“Hayden’s been doing the second ruck role pretty well, while he hasn’t hit the scoreboard like Joel did on the weekend, he’s important to us as that secondary ruck.

“That’s something we’re going to weigh up this week. Whether we take some extra height, or go smaller and run, those guys are pretty athletic which helps.

“Joel is one of the faster guys we have on our list and Hayden has terrific endurance. So we’ll make that call on Friday.”

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