Sydney Swans coach John Longmire has thrown his faith behind the strength of the club’s forward stocks, underlining the versatility of the group as the countdown to season 2020 continues.
Four-time Coleman medallist Lance Franklin headlines the group and is now the owner of an official leadership tag, having been named on a new-look leadership panel alongside co-captains Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Dane Rampe, as well as young gun Callum Mills.
But Longmire sees a wealth of firepower beyond the 944-goal star.
“We feel like the mix of players we have available in our front half is really good,” Longmire told Victorian radio station RSN.
“We have players who can mark it like Will Hayward and Isaac Heeney and some talls like Sam Reid, Tom McCartin and Lance Franklin. But we’ve also got a good small fleet there as well, with Tom Papley, Lewis Taylor, Sam Gray and Ben Ronke all buzzing around.
“We need to get some more front-half turnovers. It’s about keeping the ball in our front half, working on our stoppages and working on our ground position. There are a few different things to work on. We need to make sure we put the pressure on.”
Heeney’s ability to hit the scoreboard, bolster the midfield and play as a loose man in defence makes him one of Longmire’s most versatile options.
The New South Welshman’s dangerous ability as a forward was on show when he spearheaded the Swans inside 50 in Round 20 last season, booting four goals in Franklin’s absence against the Giants in Sydney Derby XVIII.
Taylor and Gray both arrived at the Swans during the off-season, with Taylor switching from the Brisbane Lions via the trade period and Gray swapping Port Adelaide colours for red and white as a delisted free agent.
Taylor has kicked 88 goals in 112 games since being drafted to the Lions at the 2013 AFL Draft, while Gray has racked up 83 goals in 96 matches since landing at the Power as a rookie in 2013.
In light of the wide-spread competition for forward-line spots and the fact McCartin can play at either end of the ground, it remains to be seen how Sydney will shape up inside 50 this year.
But Longmire has been very open about his plans for Franklin, insisting the eight-time All Australian is best used further up the ground.
“I’ve always felt the best spot for Lance is up the ground because that gives him a 360-degree situation for opposition players to defend him, which is a lot harder than a 180-degree angle where he’s just leading up in front,” Longmire said.
“I’ve also always felt that with his field-kicking ability he’s a real threat up the ground.
“It’s just about getting the right amount of training into him to allow that and that’s what we’ve got to do before the season starts.”
Franklin underwent knee surgery after suffering an injury during a run on New Year’s Eve, although the 300-game veteran is expected to suit up against the Adelaide Crows in Round 1.
Franklin will this year become just the sixth player in VFL/AFL history to have conquered the 1000-goal barrier if he kicks 56 majors.