Sam Reid will partner Lance Franklin in a tall Sydney forward line. Picture: Phil Hillyard.
Sam Reid will partner Lance Franklin in a tall Sydney forward line. Picture: Phil Hillyard.

Swans set to be tall order for Dogs defence

THE Sydney Swans forward line has had a growth spurt and Lance Franklin has found some big Buddies at last.

Pundits tipping the Swans to miss the finals for the first time since 2009 have highlighted concerns over Franklin once again being left to shoulder too much responsibility in the scoring department.

But the cavalry has arrived.

Although Sydney will be entering enemy territory on Saturday night at Marvel Stadium, it's the Western Bulldogs who might find they feel more like boys among men.

Franklin (199cm) remains the focal point of the Swans' attack, but he is now being flanked by two-metre tall Callum Sinclair, the imposing Sam Reid (196cm) and towering 195cm debutant Nick Blakey in one of the most monstrous forward lines in the competition.

Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better in the world of AFL, but Zaine Cordy is the only starting forward in the Bulldogs line-up for Saturday night who won't need a stepladder, at 193cm.

Callum Sinclair will spend time in a tall forward line for Sydney. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Callum Sinclair will spend time in a tall forward line for Sydney. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Last year, Sinclair was locked in as Sydney's sole ruckman and Reid missed virtually all of 2018 with injury. It left Franklin - when fit - as the sole hulking presence upfront and the Swans dynamic midfield were sometimes left with limited targets to aim at, despite the development of young guns Tom Papley and Will Hayward.

But coach John Longmire has shown his hand early and gone large, with footy insiders already salivating at the prospect of Franklin and boy-wonder Blakey in particular flourishing as one of the league's most dominant one-two combinations.

"As a forward group we don't want all the pressure on Bud to have to kick a winning score each week," said Blakey.

"We really think that there's a number of boys that can hit the scoreboard so we're pretty keen to take some stress off him.

"He's still obviously going to have a massive impact on our side and when he's up and kicking goals and he's playing his best footy, then we are a hard team to beat.

"We all do want to contribute and hopefully everyone can chip in. But if Bud is kicking goals, that's also good."

Nick Blakey will add height to Sydney’s forward line when he debuts. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Nick Blakey will add height to Sydney’s forward line when he debuts. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Coach Longmire was originally sceptical Franklin could prove his fitness for round one, but over the past three weeks he has trained more than he did in 2018 in its entirety.

But for the couple of months post his off-season groin surgery, Franklin was virtually unable to train.

The outside perception of Franklin as some kind of football rock star, belies the reputation he has at the Swans for being about the most invested player at the club.

They weren't able to combine on the paddock, but Franklin tutored Blakey from the sidelines and has played a major role in the 18-year-old prodigy being named for his AFL debut.

"He's been massive for my development and for all the other first year boys. You wouldn't expect it if you weren't actually in the inner-sanctum and probably 99 per cent of people wouldn't know how much of an impact he has on our club," Blakey said.

"He's been great for me, he's just like another coach out on the field and he's been working his backside off.

"He just said I have a real knack for competing and (he's said), I'm not out there to win them the game, I'll just play my role and my role is to just have a real crack and put massive pressure on.

"I looked up to him and watched him a lot as a kid so to play with him will be pretty cool, but we haven't spoken about how we will link-up or our connection."

News Corp Australia


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