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Hannebery praises big man's influence

Callum Sinclair celebrates a goal against St Kilda on Saturday night.

The pre-season retirement of Kurt Tippett and season-ending knee injury to Sam Naismith added extra load on the shoulders of Callum Sinclair.

But star Sydney midfielder Dan Hannebery has praised the impact Sinclair has had since absorbing the shock of the Swans’ hard-hit rucking department.

Sinclair last season played as a forward and pinch-hit in the ruck, but in 2018 he is the side’s go-to big man – and Hannebery says he has “gone to a new level”.

“With Tippett retiring and then Naismith going down a massive load was put on him to show a lot in regard to ruck duties,” Hannebery said.

“He’s really taken it upon himself to lift his game. We’ve needed him to and he’s been outstanding for us. He’s first and foremost competed really strongly and given us, if not first use, he’s putting it into an area where we know it’s roughly going to go.”

Sinclair has held his own in the majority of rucking duels this season and has battled hard against seasoned campaigners Nic Naitanui, Sam Jacobs and Aaron Sandilands.

Naitanui returned from a season-long injury lay-off to face Sinclair in Perth in Round 1 and the former teammates will again cross swords at the SCG on Friday night.

Sinclair has tallied 30-plus hit-outs on six occasions this season and a return of 45 against GWS in Round 3 tops the lot.

At 200 centimetres and 96 kilograms he is one of the smallest ruckmen in the AFL, but the 28-year-old is exceeding expectations in the coaches’ votes.

Sinclair has polled 35 AFL Coaches’ Association’s Champion Player of the Year award votes and after the opening 12 rounds is running third among the competition’s ruckmen.

He trails Melbourne’s Max Gawn and Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy, who on Monday collided in the Queen’s Birthday clash at the MCG, and Hannebery says Sinclair’s game mirrors those of the star Demon and Magpie.

“He’s getting involved around the ground, which is what you want your ruckman to do,” Hannebery said.

“The best ruckmen in the comp – you’re looking at probably Gawn and Grundy at the moment – are getting involved heavily around the ground. I feel like he’s done that for a number of weeks.

“I thought his best game when I was watching from the sidelines was against Geelong and I think he’s gone to another level in subsequent games since.”