The Sydney Swans have taken big strides on the road to Round 1 in weekly match simulation, but midfield coach Dean Cox says preparation for the season will shift a gear higher in Friday’s inter-club duel with GWS.

Cox has touted the Blacktown International Sportspark clash as a chance for Sydney’s players to reacquaint themselves with the challenging physical demands of a game.

“We want to get some minutes into our players against an opposition team,” Cox told Swans Media.

“We’ve played some practice matches against ourselves and it’ll now be good to build some chemistry and play against an opposition team. The first pre-season match is about blowing some cobwebs out.

“It always steps up a bit when you play another team. We want to be able to play a quality opposition and get our season going. Aggression is certainly an area of the game that ramps up a bit when you face an opposition team.”

Cox says the pre-season hit-out will also give the Swans an opportunity to fine-tune the tactical side of their game.

And in light of Mills’ full-time switch to the midfield, Florent’s evolution as an inside-outside midfielder, Papley taking on extra minutes at the centre bounce and a number of other changes for the 2019 campaign, Cox insists the inter-club fixture will provide Sydney with an ideal platform for experimentation. 

“When you’re setting up in certain ways in match simulation your teammates know exactly what you’re doing,” Cox said.

“So as much as the inter-club match is about getting some minutes into the players, it’s also about getting a better grip on team strategy." 

Former Kangaroo Ryan Clarke and ex-Cat Jackson Thurlow will cross the white line for their first pre-season outing in red and white.

Sydney signed the young duo at last October’s trade period, with Clarke boosting the Swans’ midfield depth and Thurlow adding to the club’s defensive stocks.

The pre-season sweat has seen Clarke hone his trade under the guidance of Cox and fellow midfield mentor Brett Kirk, as well as star on-ballers Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker.

And Thurlow hasn’t had to look far for invaluable direction himself, with the 46-gamer churning out his pre-season campaign alongside defence coach Tadhg Kennelly, as well as Heath Grundy, Dane Rampe and a number of other experienced backmen.

Clarke and Thurlow have both impressed Cox during the summer months, and the second-year midfield coach hopes to see the new Swans carry their pleasing form into Friday’s match.

“Clarke’s outside run is a real stand-out, he’s been a really strong and consistent performer in match simulation and he’s really attacked the training drills,” Cox said. 

“He’s also one of the players who’s completed most of the pre-season program so far.

“For Thurlow, it’s about trying to establish himself and build chemistry in the back six. He can identify how Rampe, Grundy and Melican all play, and hopefully he can build a strong foundation for the start of the season in the inter-club game.

“Thurlow’s ability to run and carry has been impressive and he’s been intercepting as well. He’s been really important for us during match simulation.”

Who: Sydney Swans v GWS

Where: Blacktown International Sportspark

When: Friday, 9:30am

Click HERE for live-stream details.