Tom Papley is leading the rise of the small forwards, as he tries to claim the Coleman Medal from the grasp of the league’s big men for the first time in 45 years.
The 178cm speedster has kicked 15 goals so far this season, to be joint-leader in the race for the Coleman Medal with Port Adelaide’s Charlie Dixon.
Papley has helped put himself in contention for the league’s top goalkicking prize by continuing the form that saw him top the Swans’ six-pointers with 37 in 2019. He’s now kicked at least one goal in his last 25 games across two seasons.
But Papley isn’t the only small forward chasing the Coleman Medal this year, with St Kilda’s Dan Butler and Brisbane’s Charlie Cameron next on the list with 13 goals, tied with last year’s winner Jeremy Cameron from GWS.
Having a small forward win the goalkicking award for the first time since Hawks legend Leigh Matthews did it in 1975 is something Papley would welcome and be happy to share.
“It would be good. Charlie Cameron is up there as well, it would be good if we could win it together.
“But I’m not getting ahead of myself. I think the big boys will start kicking a few bags soon, and watching Charlie Dixon on the weekend he’s looking really fit and like an intimidating key forward.
“It would be an amazing achievement. But it’s a long way off and, at the moment, I’m not really looking at that, I’m looking at getting some wins for the team.”
The energetic forward has also been seen leaping over teammates in a single bound, when he celebrated one of Will Hayward’s goals against Gold Coast by leapfrogging his teammate.
But Papley played down his antics, saying, “I didn’t really mean that. I was expecting him to jump and I’d jump on him, but he didn’t really so I just jumped over him.
“We were both a little bit shocked at what just happened. I usually can’t really jump, so it’ll be alright if I can jump like that for a mark.”
The 24-year-old brings plenty of energy to the club off the field too, helping to keep morale high and positive despite the Swans losing their past four matches.
“It’s one of my strengths. I carry on a bit, probably a little bit too much at times, but I think that’s better than not at all,” Papley said.
“I like to make it as enjoyable as possible at the club, but when the time’s right I’m also there to switch on the boys and hit them up if they aren’t doing the right thing.”
Papley was the subject of trade speculation at the end of last year but stayed in Sydney after a deal wasn’t struck.
The goal-sneak was quick to put the rumours and unrest behind him when he returned to the club after the 2019 trade period.
“I came back in the pre-season and addressed it on day one,” Papley said.
“From there I think I had to earn the respect back from the playing group, and show that I actually want to be here and that I’m committed, and I think I’ve done that so far.
“I’m here now and I’m committed to the football club.”
The gun forward will be hoping to continue his good form in the match against old rivals Hawthorn on Saturday at the SCG.