The Sydney Swans have held their third match simulation training session this week with the intensity of their preparations continuing to rise ahead of their 2021 campaign.
With the season just five weeks away, and the pre-season fixture against the Gold Coast Suns now under a month away, Swans senior coach John Longmire can feel his players eagerness for the season to commence.
During a lengthy hit-out in warm conditions at Lakeside Oval for the club’s intra-squad game, the players put forward their case for a spot ahead of the season.
“It’s always awkward at this time of year playing against each other, you both know what you are trying to do and you try not to go too hard where you hurt each other, but you need to go hard enough to stake your claim for a spot.” Longmire said.
“It’s always a delicate balancing act at this time of year but it’s good to watch.
"There have been some really good signs for some of our younger players in the team, and some of the players that missed a lot of footy last year coming back into the groove."
With the Swans season kicking off against the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba in just over a month’s time, the contest and competitiveness at this week’s match simulation training continued to rise.
The players intensity and hunger was noted as a key positive takeaway by Longmire.
“That’s the spirit of the contest [a touch of push and shove] and the boys are out there having a great hit out,” Longmire said.
“We have one more hit out next week and then we are into the opposition. We are a month away from playing and that’s on everyone’s mind which is terrific.
“We have two even teams out there, they are very close in the contest, on the score board and a lot of the young players seem to be getting a bit of the ball which is terrific to see as a coach." he added.
With the young players development being a strong focus during the pre-season, Longmire said it was also a focus for the team to continue to be prepared to take the next step.
“It is really exciting from my perspective to sit back and see a number of the draftees look really sharp and the draftees we have got over the last couple of years all contributing,” Longmire said.
“We understand we have some really good young talent on our list, that we have been nurturing and bringing through and trying to develop. But we know that step into finals football, week in week out, is still a step we need to take.
“We weren’t happy with where we finished last year, we got some positives out of it, but that next step is a big significant step we need to make.”
The team have embraced the challenges of the new AFL rule changes and Longmire believes it will have a big impact at the SCG in 2021.
The Swans have been adjusting and familiarising themselves with the changes, with a particular focus on players standing on the mark with minimal lateral movement.
Umpires have been involved with the Swans’ match simulation sessions over the past few weeks, keeping a close eye on the action.
“It’s always good to get the umpires up and we have had a NSW umpire here for the last few weeks which has been terrific, but it’s even more important now with the rule changes and the interpretations of those rule changes,” Longmire said.
“It’s going to be really interesting to see how the rule change plays out because if you don’t get it right, we don’t want it to turn into a 50m goal-fest. The players generally over the years have had a wonderful ability to adapt to rule changes and we are hoping that is the case again this year,” he continued.
“The penalty is significant, and we know at the SCG, not being a huge ground, that 50m penalty, generally wherever it is taken, is a shot at goal so that is a big penalty.”
The Swans will kick off their 2021 campaign against the Lions in week one before welcoming fans back to our home on Saturday March 27 against the Adelaide Crows.