Naismith wins battle for top ruck spot

Sam Naismith has emerged as the Sydney Swans’ number one ruckman and will take on a rejuvenated Paddy Ryder in an intriguing battle of the big men against Port Adelaide on Saturday at the SCG, while former captain Kieren Jack will line up after overcoming a hip niggle.

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The 206cm Naismith pipped Callum Sinclair to the post and will rotate with Kurt Tippett throughout the game, the latter making up a towering Swans forward line which also includes Lance Franklin and Sam Reid.

Up against them at the coal face this weekend will be ex-Bomber Ryder, exiled from the game in 2016 after the Essendon supplements scandal but back to prove a point following a 12-month ban. Subscribe to The Age Real Footy Podcast ???

“Paddy Ryder’s had a year off so it’s going to be interesting,” Naismith said.

“It’s going to be crucial for our mids this week, we’ve got to try and win that contested ball around the stoppages. That’s going to be a focus for us going into the game.

“I’ve just been trying to work on my craft week in, week out. I got an opportunity in round 16 last year. When you get an opportunity to play senior footy, you’ve got to take it with both hands, you can’t just rest.

“It goes up to another level from playing state league footy so you’ve just got to take opportunity and do what the coaches ask, it’s all about effort.”

Naismith had two shoulder operations following last year’s grand final – one to reconstruct the joint and then a follow up to remove the metallic plate surgeons implanted the first time.

He eased himself into pre-season, but has been in strong form throughout the JLT Community Series and gave coach John Longmire no choice but to select him against the Power.

Also forcing his way into Sydney’s 22 is first-round draftee Oliver Florent who was named on the Swans’ interchange after impressing himself throughout the pre-season.

“We’re really pleased that he’s been able to get to the stage of playing his first game of AFL football this week,” Longmire said.

“He’s developed very quickly over the summer months. We knew he had talent, physically he’s been able to do some work and put on some weight and some strength which is really important when you’re playing against men for the first time.

“He’s really stepped up in regards to that over the summer. He chases, he tackles, he runs both ways. All the things that we value.

“It’s exciting for any young player, we spoke to he and his family before the draft and then when we drafted him we were absolutely thrilled that we got him onto our list.”

Aliir Aliir will be given at least another week in the NEAFL, with Jeremy Laidler named at centre half-back. Aliir has battled a toe injury in recent times, although he played against Sydney University last weekend.

“He had a bit of a delayed start, he’s very important for us but we want him to come into the program and play really good senior football, not just play senior football,” Longmire said.

“We thought the best chance of that would be to keep doing some work and working on the things he needs to do. We know he can play a really important role for us but we didn’t go with him this week.”