Sydney Swans coach John Longmire is confident that his unconventional forward line setup can get the job done against Adelaide at the SCG on Friday night.
Aliir Aliir returned to the senior side for the first time since round 4 last season, playing the second-tall forward role, occasionally pinch hitting in the ruck and in defence.
While the Swans overcame the Bulldogs in a thrilling finish, Aliir rarely troubled the scoreboard, missing a shot on the run in the last quarter, his only score for the match.
Swans superstar forward Lance Franklin was goalless in the first half, for the second time in as many weeks, while Luke Parker and Tom Papley kicked five goals between them in the opening half.
Despite the unconventional look of the forward line, given Sam Reid’s absence and Kurt Tippett’s retirement, Longmire looks set to persist with Aliir despite his indifferent performance.
“It was a different role for him on the weekend,” Longmire said. “He’s played there a couple of times in the reserves and we still need to keep exposing him to different roles, in particularly in light of losing a couple of ruckman.
“We need to be mindful of his education in that part of the game as well.
"Whilst he’s played there a couple of times in our reserves, he hasn’t played there consistently and that’s something that we’ll continue to work with him on, and expose him to, and try and keep educating him on, to be able to play another role in AFL footy (sic).”
Vice-captain Luke Parker was the star for the Swans in the first half, kicking three crucial goals to keep the Swans within striking distance.
The 25-year-old booted 25 goals in 2016, but fell away in 2017, kicking just 17 goals from 24 games; an area of the game that Parker wanted to improve on, Longmire said.
“It's something that he wanted to do – to continue to be a really strong quality midfielder, but to go forward and kick goals,” Longmire said.
“He’s got the capacity to do that as we've seen a number of times. He’s very good in the air and he’s generally a very good kick.
“On the weekend he had three goals to half-time and showed that he can hit the scoreboard, but he also had 10 tackles, so it was a fairly good mix as a quality forward-midfielder.”
Tall forward Sam Reid recently underwent surgery to repair damage to his quadriceps tendon suffered against the Giants in round 3.
Longmire confirmed that surgery was necessary to improve his recovery and prevent further damage, not to get him back on the track quicker.
“They decided to operate on it – just to go have a look and see whether it needed operating on, and it did,” Longmire said.
“We feel at this early stage it was a good decision to operate and hopefully that will help him in his comeback.
“He feels good today, he's walking around fine, so it’s a good sign.
“We're certainly not going to race him after that, it wasn't to operate on him just because we wanted to get him back quicker.
“We're still conscious on making sure his rehab's right. We'll take the time to get that right and it was just a bit of extra measures to put in place in the early part of the injury to try to prevent anything happening down the track.”
The Dogs opened a 22-point margin early in the second quarter, before the Swans rallied and kicked six unanswered goals.
Despite their unrelenting pressure, the Swans refused to wilt or surrender the lead, eventually running our 7-point winners in one of the games of the season.
Despite the Dogs playing a good, strong brand of football, Longmire isn’t looking any further than one week at a time, mindful of the Crows, fresh off an embarrassing performance and significant injury problems.
“We've had a pretty solid start against real quality opposition in really good form, and it hasn't been easy for us, and it won’t be easy again this week,” Longmire said.
“The challenges keep presenting themselves every week. One thing is to really make sure that we're really on top of our game, be as sharp as we possibly can be, because you can't let your guard down at all.
“It'll be really tough again this week, we play a quality team back here, it's great and hopefully in front of a big crowd. We're really looking forward to it.”
Despite starting the season with three wins in the first four rounds, Longmire insists that the competition is tougher and closer than ever before.
“It’s an incredibly tough competition, you say it every year and it keeps on getting tougher and closer and certainly at the moment, it’s so tight,” Longmire said.
“We go down on the weekend to the Doggies (sic) and there was a point in it with 30 seconds to go.
“It just sort of highlights what’s happening generally across the competition, there was a couple of one-sided games on the weekend but generally across the competition it was pretty tough.”
Forward Gary Rohan was an omission last week with his wife giving birth to their twin daughters, Willow and Bella, with the Swans wearing black and white armbands in honour of the family’s twins.
With Gary Rohan back at training on Monday morning, Longmire hasn’t put a timeline in place for his return, taking one day at a time.
“We'll just take it one day at a time, and we'll see how it goes, we're certainly not going to make any grand statements on Monday,” Longmire said.
“He an Amie have had some challenging moments last week and (they) had some exciting moments as well.
Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge offered his condolences to the family in his post-match press conference.
“They really appreciate what Luke Beveridge said last week after the game, and really commented on how the whole football community really comes together as one with the supporters, coaches, clubs and players in challenging times,” Longmire said.
“There's no better spot to be, than in the AFL industry and we really appreciate that, and families involved really appreciate that”
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