Exactly who competes for the first bounce in Saturday’s clash with Essendon at Marvel Stadium is an open question. The Bombers also lost their chief big man, Tom Bellchambers, to a calf injury on Thursday night, which means they’ will have to either recall Zac Clarke or use forward Shaun McKernan in the ruck.
Longmire, meanwhile, is tossing up his options. The only remaining ruckman on their list who is fit and available to play is mid-season draftee Michael Knoll, a former basketballer who was a standout in the SANFL earlier this year but is still learning the sport, let alone the ins and outs of life in the AFL.
Alternatively, the Swans could “get creative” as Longmire put it and share the load between defender Aliir Aliir and forward Sam Reid, as they did for the final three quarters against the Suns. The drawback of that is both players are vitally important to the team’s structure at either end of the park.
Knoll had 33 hit-outs and 11 disposals for Sydney’s NEAFL team at the weekend but Longmire seemed to talk down his prospects of an AFL debut, which would ironically come against the Bombers, who were keen to select him in the mid-season draft but were gazumped by the Swans, whose position on the ladder at the time gave them an earlier pick.
“It’s such a whirlwind, he went from Melbourne to Adelaide and then halfway through the season packed up to Sydney … straight into an AFL club, full-time environment and going again. It’s a big change,” Longmire said.
“We think he’s got really good potential. Whether it’s this week or not, we’re not sure. But you do have to start at some point.”
It is unlikely Knoll, 26, would turn down the challenge but Longmire said: “If you ask any player, they always think they’re ready. I think I’m still ready to play AFL football today. You’ve got to be mindful of that. We’ve looked at all his vision, we’ll see how he’s training, and make a decision from there.”
The Swans face another selection conundrum with veterans Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack, who have recovered from their respective injuries but are no certainties to play this week.
Longmire said he was in “ongoing discussions” with McVeigh over his return date while admitting Jack, who has played the last two games in the NEAFL, needs to improve his form to earn a recall.
Longmire also highlighted one of the advantages of having experienced players out of the first-choice team. “(James) Rowbottom spoke about it during the week to me, how good it was having Kieren involved in the reserves, teaching him and talking to him during the course of a game,” he said.
“Then he’s able to come up into senior company and hold his own. That’s quality leadership from Kieren to help a younger player out that potentially could be taking his spot and be OK with that and help him.”
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.