SYDNEY believes highly rated key forward Logan McDonald will have a role to play in his debut season at the club, though the Swans are keen to surround the West Australian youngster with senior bodies in their developing attack.
McDonald was viewed by some recruiters as the best available key forward prospect in last year's NAB AFL Draft, but slipped through to Sydney at pick No.4 after the Western Bulldogs matched a bid on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Adelaide chose Riley Thilthorpe and North Melbourne opted for Will Phillips.
An athletic 196cm forward, McDonald has impressed the Swans with his work ethic throughout his first AFL pre-season and appears destined to feature prominently in the upcoming campaign.
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However, the club has stressed they will not throw McDonald into the deep end until he is ready, revealing they are hoping to support him with senior experience courtesy of Lance Franklin, Sam Reid and Callum Sinclair throughout the year.
"A lot of the draftees play pretty early now. Not all of them, but some of them do," Sydney coach John Longmire told AFL.com.au.
"Certainly, over the last couple of years, our boys have been in that boat. A number of them have come in and played pretty early on. But he'll play when he's ready. We won't force him into it. He's still building up, it's unrealistic to consider that an 18-year-old will come in and hold down centre half-forward in his first year or two. But we think that he's got a role to play.
"We'd like some experience around him as he learns the game and takes the bigger-bodied defenders. Who knows where that goes? You couldn't say it's beyond him, because of what he did last year at senior WAFL level. He had a fantastic season, he played with men and he did really well. That's a really good sign."
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McDonald thrust himself into the pick No.1 conversation last year following an outstanding season playing senior WAFL footy with Perth, kicking 21 goals from nine games and averaging 11.2 disposals and four marks per match.
Such form saw him skyrocket in the ranks of several recruiters, including those at Sydney, with the club keen to test both McDonald and fellow top-five pick Braeden Campbell at senior level this season.
"It's just work rate (with McDonald). He works really hard," Longmire said.
"The fact that he played senior football over in Perth and was so competitive and so consistent, it meant that there was some sort of drive there underneath him to get there and do that. He's shown great improvement over the years, getting better and better.
"His athleticism and that drive and that continuous rate of improvement that he's had over the last few years, that was what really stood out. There were plenty of good players, we liked them all, but I thought he was a beauty. You can't have them all obviously, but we were really comfortable with the two that we picked up in that top-five."
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Sydney's decision to take McDonald over West Australian key defender Denver Grainger-Barras at pick No.4, combined with the departure of Aliir Aliir to Port Adelaide during the Trade Period, now leaves the Swans with some tinkering to do in their backline.
Campbell has been earmarked to begin his career at half-back, potentially replacing the midfield-bound Callum Mills, while 191cm defender Will Gould has been tipped to make his senior debut this season playing as an intercepting third tall.
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Tom McCartin is another training full-time with the backline, with the 21-year-old's successful switch into the defence late last season allowing the Swans the freedom to make the list management decisions involving both McDonald and Aliir.
"We were heading down that path (with McCartin) anyway," Longmire said.
"We've played Tom down there a couple of times, and we were also mindful that we'd lost Aliir Aliir. We understood that they were some things that we needed to consider in our list management. The fact we'd played Tom down there last year, we always felt he'd be a natural down back.
"But we also think he's a great competitor up forward. We know with the injuries we've had to Lance and Sam Reid at different times, that we still needed that option up front.
"We weren't surprised with what Tom was able to do down back last year, he played on everyone from Charlie Dixon to Tom Hawkins. It was a great experience for him and we're really pleased with what he's doing down there at the moment.
"He'll spend most of his time down back and he looks good. He's learning all the time, with Dane Rampe and Jake Lloyd and Harry Cunningham helping him. He's picking up really well.
"That obviously leaves some areas up in our forward line to be able to slot in players such as Logan and give him those opportunities, even though it's only going to be his first year."