Swans unlikely to be stretched against Eagles in season opener

Leading into their opening round clash of the 2018 AFL season, the fortunes between the Swans and Eagles couldn't be further apart.

Fresh off an emphatic belting at the hands of the Dockers, the Eagles are nursing their wounded and will be doing their best to scratch together a scoring unit for their opening round clash against the Swans on Sunday week.

Nic Naitanui was always an unlikely selection for Round 1, making his comeback after more than a year on the sidelines, but may find himself forced into the line-up with Nathan Vardy missing through injury, leaving Scott Lycett as the only fit ruckman left in the Eagles side.

The Swans have their own ruck woes, with Kurt Tippett retiring in January and Sam Naismith rupturing his ACL a week ago.

Callum Sinclair rolled his ankle in JLT 1 and sat out JLT 2, but is expected to return to the side for Round 1, while Darcy Cameron impressed against the Giants in JLT 2. Dean Towers provided the chop out to great effect in both games, and will provide crucial cover throughout the season.

Crucially, the Eagles are missing their spearhead forward Josh Kennedy, still recovering from ankle surgery. The Eagles have struggled to score during the JLT Series in his absence, mustering scores of just 56 and 39, while the Swans have gone undefeated across three games, twice beating cross-town rivals GWS Giants.

The Eagles are likely to be missing forwards Brendon Ah Chee and Willie Rioli. Ah Chee suffered an ankle sprain in JLT 1 while Rioli injured his ankle in his side's loss to Fremantle in JLT 2.

The Swans will likely be missing stars Dan Hannebery and Jarrad McVeigh, both recovering from calf strains. Both players have had restricted pre-seasons and will be in a race against time to prove their fitness ahead of Round 1.

Given the surplus of midfield, forward and half-back options leading into Round 1, the Swans will have a tough time at the selection table. Nic Newman is the obvious like-for-like replacement for McVeigh, while Harry Cunningham or Zak Jones could make a move into the midfield.

Heath Grundy played his first minutes of the pre-season in the Swans' NEAFL curtain-raiser, surviving 60 minutes without injury. There's always a chance that he will be selected, but it's more likely the Swans will pick either Marsh or Aliir and give Grundy more time to prove his fitness.

The best news of the pre-season has been the fitness and form of the Swans forward line, with Franklin, Reid and Papley looking sharp and impacting games. Parker and Kennedy have pushed forward to great effect, and the Swans look like they've found their scoring spread again.

Stay tuned for more team news throughout the week.

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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 https://theswansblog.com

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