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Pyke's growing stature

Luke McManus  June 1, 2015 5:19 PM

Swans coach John Longmire fronts the media on Monday and chats about Mike Pyke's 100-game milestone.
Mike Pyke duels with Fremantle's Aaron Sandilands earlier this season.

Mike Pyke duels with Fremantle's Aaron Sandilands earlier this season.

He’s one of the best learners I’ve ever seen or worked with.

Swans coach John Longmire has described Mike Pyke’s journey, from international rugby player to AFL premiership ruckman, as one of the greatest feel-good stories in the competition’s history.

Pyke becomes one of four international recruits – the first of Canadian origin – to reach 100 games when the two sides meet at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night.

The milestone is an incredible feat given the 31-year-old took a literal sporting punt, turning his back on an international rugby career (of which he had already compiled 17 games and scored 30 tries) in favour of a crack at Australian Rules.

Longmire was an assistant coach at the time when a clip of Pyke’s famous intercept, playing for Canada against the New Zealand All-Blacks, was presented to the Swans’ recruiters and coaching staff.

Pyke intercepted a pass on the wing during a game in Hamilton, New Zealand, before running the entire length of the field and scoring.

The Swans liked what they saw and offered the 200cm, 91kg big man a contract less than 12 months on following his first pre-season and a fast-tracked introduction to the game.

“To be able to turn up on our doorstep a few years ago, train here for a couple of weeks, earn a spot on the rookie list and play senior football in his first year after never seeing the game at all is quite extraordinary,” Longmire told media on Monday.

“He has played in a premiership, he’s playing every week for us at the moment and he’s in good form so it’s a remarkable story and it’s a real credit to his ability to apply himself to another sport and reach the top level.”

Pyke has compiled an impressive highlights package over his 99 games in the red and white, headlined by his mighty effort in the final term of the 2012 grand final when the then 45-gamer took on the ruck battles single-handedly after Shane Mumford went down with injury.

Fast forward a couple of years and Pyke has cemented himself as one of the competition’s leading ruckmen, enjoying a particularly good 2015 to help place the Swans second in the competition for hit outs and stoppage clearances.

And, according to the coach, is showing no signs of resting on his laurels: “He’s one of the best learners I’ve ever seen or worked with,” Longmire added.