A SUMMER spent side by side in Sydney's rehabilitation group has helped new recruit Sam Gray and Tom Papley form a strong bond, and the former Port Adelaide speedster believes that will be on show in Saturday's season-opener.
Plenty have tipped a tough start to the season for the Swans with superstar Lance Franklin (knee) and fellow tall target Sam Reid (calf) missing from the team, but Gray believes his side's large band of zippy goalkickers can have an impact against Adelaide on his old home deck.
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Both Gray and Papley had shoulder surgery at the end of last season which meant a delayed start to the summer, and plenty of time working and talking about the small forward craft in Sydney.
The pair were difficult to tell apart on the track at times, and Papley – by his own admission – isn't a favourite of opposition teams because of his combative nature on the field.
However, Gray told AFL.com.au he had no issues finding a connection with the gun Swan after his move to Sydney in the off-season, after 96 games with the Power.
"He's a really great guy and I love the way he goes about his footy," he said.
"I guess if teams are saying they don't like you it's probably a good thing because you're doing something right on the field.
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"I can't wait to get out there with him.
"Tommy and I did all our rehabilitation together and I've built a good connection with him."
Aside from Franklin and Reid being out, mobile big man Callum Sinclair was surprisingly overlooked by coach John Longmire, so the Swans will have to rely on ground level players like Gray, Tom Papley, Will Hayward and Nick Blakey to be their attacking weapons against the Crows.
"That’s the plan," Gray said.
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"We've got a lot of speed and youth down there this week, so we'll try and put a lot of pressure on the Crows.
"I guess most teams are about defence first and that's when your best attack comes, so if we can turn the ball over close to goal that gives us a lot more opportunities to score."
Gray's last game at Adelaide Oval was last year's round 16 Showdown when Port thumped the Crows by 57 points in front of a typically massive crowd.
He booted two goals from 22 possessions to help keep the Crows' faithful silent, but he's unsure what to expect when he runs out in the red and white on Saturday given the League's lockout rules.
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"It probably helps us because there won't be 50,000 fans screaming at us," he said with a laugh.
"Going back home to Adelaide to an empty ground and no family and friends there to watch me will be weird, but I'm can't wait to pull on the Swans jumper."