Luke Parker in action at Sydney training on April 16, 2024. Picture: Phil Hillyard

THREE-time club champion Luke Parker may have to return from injury through the VFL as the Swans weigh up the best way to bring the 31-year-old back following a fractured arm.

Parker trained fully on Wednesday but after eight weeks out is not guaranteed a spot straight back into the AFL side for Sunday's clash against Hawthorn.

Nick Blakey and Tom McCartin both ran laps at Wednesday's session after copping niggling injuries in the win over Gold Coast, as did Taylor Adams and Justin McInerney, but they are likely to all train fully later in the week.


The MCG outing for Sydney will be a celebration for tackling machine James Rowbottom, in what will be his 100th game, as well as the 100th consecutive match for Oli Florent.

But it's Parker's name that will be the one to monitor when the Sydney's final 23 is confirmed on Friday.

"We haven't made the decision whether he actually plays or not this week," said coach John Longmire.

"He's got to get through training and do some contested work. He did some of that last week, he needs to ramp that up this week and then if he gets the all-clear, it's whether he plays at VFL or AFL level because he's missed a lot of footy."

Luke Parker ahead of Sydney's game against West Coast in R4, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

As handy an addition as Parker would be, the second-placed Swans have the luxury of not needing to rush him back given their exceptional midfield depth.

That includes the indefatigable Rowbottom, who leads the AFL's tackling numbers this year after breaking Brett Kirk's single season tackling record at the Swans last season.

In the lead-up to his milestone game, Rowbottom opened up on the key words he plays over in his mind to ensure he maintains his much-heralded attack on the ball and opposition.

"My three words are power, bodywork and communication and that kind of flows into the rest of my game if I can tick those off," Rowbottom said of his tackling numbers, which he admits took its toll on his body last season.

James Rowbottom celebrates a goal during round one, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"Definitely post-game, it's something you pride yourself on.

"Last year was challenging. I was getting held together by tape by the end of the year but it's nice to feel a bit fresher this year so hopefully I can keep it that way."

There’ll be an extra element of sentiment on Sunday for the Oakleigh Chargers product as he brings up three figures at the MCG, close to where he grew up in Melbourne.

"It's pretty special. I've had a couple of mates and family text and ask for tickets that makes it feel a bit more real. It'll be great to play in front of family and friends."


For a coach who constantly drives home the need for a high-intensity attack in the contest, Rowbottom would likely be a John Longmire favourite.

Back-to-back top three finishes in the club champion award for Rowbottom only endorses that claim.

"He's the number one tackle player in the competition. He knows what he's good at and he does it really well, consistently," Longmire said.

"That's why he's been such a valuable player for us for so long and he's only young, he's still only 23. He gets after the opposition and puts enormous heat on."

The Rowbottom approach often sets the standard for the Swans and that will be crucial again against the Hawks at the MCG after Sydney lost in their last outing there to Richmond in round three.

Oliver Florent in action during Sydney's clash against Essendon in round two, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"To have him doing that and setting the tone is vitally important. We saw what Hawthorn did last week (against North Melbourne), they reset and brought the mouthguards to training and that translated to the game. I imagine they won't be straying far from that this week," Longmire said.

Along with Rowbottom’s milestone, Sunday's encounter will be the 100th consecutive game for Florent, the fifth best active streak in the AFL behind Jack Crisp (220), Christian Petracca (138), Charlie Cameron (124) and Callum Wilkie (115).

"It's not easy, is it?," said Longmire. "It's a physically demanding sport that we play. To be able to prepare yourself week in, week out to be consistent enough to play 100 games in a row is a real credit to him."