Sydney ruckman Sam Naismith is playing for his finals future this weekend as the Swans look to lock in the remaining piece of their September puzzle.
Kurt Tippett and Callum Sinclair have received favourable reports on their ankle injuries, setting up a three-way battle for the ruck.
Naismith had been the the club’s preferred choice until hurting his hip a month ago but is now the third seed with queries about his form and match fitness.
The beanpole ruckman makes his return to competitive football in the NEAFL preliminary final but will need a strong showing to displace either of the incumbents.
“He trained really well on the weekend, he’ll play,” Swans coach John Longmire said.
“How much of the game I’m not quite sure, but the plan is for him to play this weekend.
“He’s missed some footy so he needs to play. It’s a very simple decision. He wasn’t quite right on the weekend [round 23] if we were to pick him. He didn’t train until later on in the week but he trained really well on Saturday.
“So that gives us an opportunity for him to train fully this week and play this weekend and prepare himself the best he can.”
Tippett and Sinclair will not train on Thursday but are expected to hit the track by the end of the week. Tippett has hurt the same ankle that dogged him earlier in the year.
The Swans played two rucks the last time they faced Essendon and are likely to do so again given the concerns about their big men.
“As we’ve done all year we’ve played who we think gives us the best possible chance to win a game of footy, that will be no different in the first final,” Longmire said.
“We’re hoping to have the three of them available, that’s the main thing. We’ll make a decision based upon the information we get at training and the game on the weekend which way we go.”
The Swans have two players in All-n contention with captain Josh Kennedy and Coleman Medal winner Lance Franklin named in the 40-man squad.
Defender Heath Grundy and midfield duo Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker as well as Dane Rampe, who all started the season slowly due to form or injury, missed out despite strong finishes to the home and away campaign.
“That’s not the major focus at the moment, as you can imagine,” Longmire said.
“The couple of boys in there certainly deserve it, but we’ve also had a few blokes miss a bit of footy this year which might have come into the equation.”
The Swans enter the finals the form team of the competition with 14 wins from their last 16 games but missed out on the double chance after losing their first six games of the year.
“The players are very confident in the way we play and what matters to us in regards to how we win or lose games of football,” Longmire said.
“Everyone really believes in the way we play. You need to be mindful we need to go out and execute, that’s always the hardest part.
“The Bombers, as we know, really pushed us to the last second at the SCG and are a very good football team with players to come in to make them stronger.”
The Swans breathed a sigh of relief after Grundy was given the all clear by the match review panel for an off-the-ball incident with Carlton’s Levi Casboult.
Casboult was floored and appeared dazed by the impact but the MRP deemed Grundy’s actions were not unreasonable in the circumstances.