Quick study Swan applies the lessons learned from Hawthorn

Ferocious small forward Tom Papley is reaping the rewards of studying Hawthorn triple premiership player Paul Puopolo, Neil Cordy wrote on Saturday afternoon.

The similarities between the players are certainly there, with Papley applying trade mark tackling and forward half pressure that Puopolo and Rioli turned into premiership success.

But even before he joined the Swans, he was watching the powerful small forward in his draft years, watching how he defended first and always on the front foot.

“I watched Paul a lot in my draft year and they year before that,” Papley told the Sunday Telegraph.

“I was told to watch him and see just how a small pressure forward works. He’s a triple premiership player and I love the way he defends.”

The Swans have since ramped up the training program, but he still finds time to study the Hawthorn star, especially last year when he was fighting for a place in the team.

“I spent a lot of time watching video of him last year as well,” Papley said.

The 21-year-old has had a stand-out season off the back of a superb debut year, kicking 29 goals and finishing second in the clubs' goal kicking tally.

More impressively he kicked 9 goals in the Swans finals series last year, the most at the club, and proved a genuine forward line threat.

This year he's taken his forward line craft to another level, kicking 25 goals from 16 games, as well as spending significant time in the midfield, which has gone a long way to helping him improve his tackling and pressure.

The impressive young forward kicked three goals against Geelong, all coming in different ways, but the last of which drew the most attention when Duncan punched him off the ball, drawing a suspension from the MRP.

“I got into him a bit because Hanners was getting a bit of the ball on Duncan,” Papley said.

“I wanted to get him off his game and he threw a punch and hit me in the guts right in the good spot and it winded me. We got a goal out of it.”

Being well versed in the "dark arts" of forward line pressure is one thing, which Tom has certainly displayed a lot of aptitude with this season, but it's another to convert those opportunities, and he hasn't been found wanting.

“If it puts defenders off their game it’s working,” Papley said.

“Niggling is part of the job, it’s what my teammates want from me and the coaches. Pressure is part of it as well and it creates goals.”

It wasn't all smooth sailing for the diminutive forward, with an injury interrupted pre-season, undergoing two surgeries, his first for shin splints and his second on his knee.

“I spent a lot of time with AJ (Alex Johnson) and he taught me how to work hard on my rehab,” Papley said.

“When he was in the gym I wanted to impress him and do everything I could to earn the trust of my teammates.”

More impressively he's avoided the dreaded second year blues, with significant improvements in most areas of his game.

Tom is averaging 3.7 disposals, 0.5 tackles, 0.8 inside 50s, 1.4 clearances and almost 8% more game time per match.

The last four rounds in particular have been significant, kicking 12 goals while averaging just 12 disposals and 4.75 tackles.

Anyone that tackles almost 5 times per game in the forward half is going more than all right, that's just fantastic, and better yet, he's not only hitting the scoreboard, but getting more score involvements as well.

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Justin Mitchell

Justin is a passionate AFL and Sydney Swans supporter, and football blogger since 2016. All articles are of his own opinion. You can reach him by twitter and Facebook at @theswansblog

Melbourne, Australia http://theswansblog.com

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