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Naismith to battle friend and foe

Rob Forsaith, AAP  June 16, 2017 8:34 PM

Longmire press conference - Rd 13, 2017 John Longmire addresses the media ahead of our main training session Thursday morning.
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Toby Nankervis (left) battles a ruck contest against his former teammate Sam Naismith during a training session last year.

Ruck contests are often awkward, but that will ring particularly true at the MCG on Saturday when Toby Nankervis faces former club Sydney for the first time.

Nankervis has been a revelation at Richmond this year, nailing down the No.1 ruck spot and helping them rise into the top four.

In half a season Nankervis has played almost as many games in the yellow and black as he managed in three years at the Swans.

It was the carrot of becoming an AFL regular that tempted Nankervis to depart Sydney, having had a taste of finals footy but served as an emergency for the 2016 Grand Final.

Kurt Tippett, Sam Naismith and Callum Sinclair were all above Nankervis in the Swans' pecking order at the time.

Now, Tippett will play in the reserves again and the Tigers' big man will be pitted against Naismith and Sinclair at the MCG.

Nankervis' stellar form this year has impressed and delighted Naismith, the pair having become friends after moving to Sydney from northern Tasmania and country NSW respectively.

"I sent him a message a few weeks ago just to congratulate him on how he's going this year," Naismith told AAP.

"It's always strange coming up against one of your mates, especially when they're playing directly opposite you.

"It'll be a bit of a weird feeling but come that first bounce he's not going to be holding anything back and neither will we."

Naismith wasn't alone in speaking highly of Nankervis earlier this week.

Swans coach John Longmire dubbed him "a terrific young bloke" who was one of Richmond's key players.

Saturday's crunch clash could be season-shaping for the Swans, who continue to make a belated bid for finals despite a 0-6 start to the year.

If they win, Longmire's side will sit just eight points and percentage below the fourth-placed team on the ladder.

Lance Franklin, Alex Rance and Dustin Martin will serve as the match's headline acts but the ruck duels will also be vital.

Naismith and Sinclair won the hit-outs 65-16 against Western Bulldogs in round 12 but their physicality when the ball hit the deck was almost as influential in the result.

Nankervis is also happy to throw his weight around.

"He's a big boy and loves a bit of competition and aggression," Naismith said.

"I'm sure Richmond love that and we respect him for that but we're going to have to go after him and the rest of the Tigers this weekend."

Regarding the form of Tippett, Naismith noted his mentor was "working his butt off".

"He went back to the reserves and played a ripping game," the 24-year-old said.