STAR Sydney Swans midfielder Luke Parker has made a brilliant return to senior football in his side's 21-point victory over Port Adelaide in their opening NAB Challenge match at Blacktown International Sports Park.
No.3 draft pick Callum Mills was also exceptional in his senior debut with 22 possessions playing across half-back, which included 16 in the first half alone.
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Parker, the 2014 club champion, suffered a broken ankle in round 20 last season and missed the Swans' last five games, including their two finals losses to Fremantle and North Melbourne.
But the tough onballer showed no signs of injury as he gathered 32 possessions in the 1.10.12 (81) to 1.7.9 (60) win over a heavily undermanned Port outfit.
There was some slightly concerning news for the winner, with exciting forward Isaac Heeney taking no part in the second half for the Swans after his knee tendonitis flared before the main break.
Heeney also copped a poke in the eye in the first term but stand-in coach Jarrad McVeigh said he took him off as a precaution.
"Being the first game of the year and (having) a week off we just thought we'd put him on ice for the rest of the game," McVeigh said.
"He's fine, obviously he's a player that wants to be out there all the time that’s just the nature of the game, but he understands that at his age with the tendonitis, he has be smart with it.
"It's not a necessity to play all the NAB Challenge games anyway."
The rain arrived at Blacktown in a big way in the fourth quarter as the Swans held on. Picture: AFL Media
Port went into the game with captain Travis Boak, Chad Wingard and Ollie Wines among a host of guns missing, but the young Power were more than competitive and led by a point at half-time.
Parker, Tom Mitchell (32 possessions) and Jake Lloyd (31) were dominant for the Swans, while Lance Franklin started in the centre square and spent some time playing as a midfielder, but struggled to have a major impact on the match.
Dean Towers was another busy Swan, he kicked the side's only super goal and added two more in the first half, and was creative across half-forward.
Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley was understandably impressed by his young side's endeavour against a much more experienced team.
"That’s Port Adelaide, that’s the way we've got to play," Hinkley said.
"We're not the most attractive team to watch, we just like to compete pretty hard.
"We talked before the game that we were more worried about our effort and our method than anything else, and I thought for big parts of the game they delivered on that pretty well.
"They were pretty strong in the contest against a really strong team and that was pleasing. For some of those young boys, they got a first hand look a what a (Luke) Parker, a (Dan) Hannebery (or) a (Josh) Kennedy can do if you let them have a bit of freedom, they'll get the ball away."
WHAT WE LEARNED
Sydney Swans: The Swans still have work to do to get their forward set-up right. Lance Franklin spent some time in the middle of the ground and Callum Sinclair battled to take his marks overhead, while Kurt Tippett played predominantly as a ruckman. It's only early so expect to see plenty of combinations tried in the NAB Challenge.
Port Adelaide: Port's young players love to scrap. They were up against it from the opening bounce when Wingard, Wines, Matthew Broadbent, Jasper Pittard and Jack Hombsch were left out of the team, but coach Ken Hinkley would have been impressed with the effort the Power showed.
Sydney Swans: Callum Mills starred in his first senior game with 22 possessions off half-back, while off-season recruits Callum Sinclair and Michael Talia were serviceable without having a great impact. Jordan Dawson and Tyrone Leonardis sat the first two-and-a-half quarters on the bench but didn't look out of place in their limited game time.
Port Adelaide: The Power's top draft pick, Riley Bonner, struggled early but looked polished when he managed to get his hands on the footy. Rookie Will Snelling nailed a brilliant goal from a set shot on the boundary in the opening term, while Aidyn Johnson and another rookie Cameron Hewett didn't see much action.
Port head back to Adelaide to take on Melbourne in a week's time at Playford Alive oval, home of SANFL club Central District. The Swans don't play their next game until Friday, March 4 when they take on Greater Wester Sydney at Drummoyne oval in Sydney's inner west.
SYDNEY SWANS 0.2.3 1.5.5 1.8.7 1.10.12 (81)
PORT ADELAIDE 0.3.6 2.5.6 1.7.9 1.7.9 (60)
Sydney Swans: Towers
Port Adelaide: Polec
Sydney Swans: Towers 2, Hewett 2, Tippett 1, Sinclair 1, Cunningham 1, Franklin 1, Nankervis 1, Dawson 1
Port Adelaide: Colquhoun 2, White 1, Snelling 1, Ah Chee 1, Neade 1, Palmer 1
Sydney Swans: Parker, Mills, Towers, Mitchell, Rampe, Grundy
Port Adelaide: S.Gray, Toumpas, Carlile, Young, Amon, Colquhoun
Sydney Swans: Heeney (knee)
Port Adelaide: Nil
Umpires: Matthew Nicholls, Nick Foot, Nick Brown, Justin Schmitt
Official crowd: 3,172 at Blacktown International Sports Park