SYDNEY will be without its No.1 ruckman Tom Hickey for six weeks with a medial ligament injury suffered in Thursday night's defeat to the Western Bulldogs, opening the door for recruit Peter Ladhams to debut for the club.
Young gun Justin McInerney is set to return from a knee injury for Saturday's clash against North Melbourne at the SCG, but small forward Tom Papley will miss another week.
Hickey's absence with a knee injury will be sorely felt after an excellent debut season in 2021 at the Swans that saw the big man finish sixth in the club's best and fairest.
But after keenly pursuing Port Adelaide product Ladhams in a trade that led to picks 16 and 12 also changing hands, John Longmire has confirmed the 202cm 24-year-old will pull on the red and white colours in an AFL game for the first time at the SCG on Saturday in the clash with struggling North Melbourne.
"He can really add to the midfield group not only in the ruck contest which is really important for us but also the ability to get the ball around the ground with his follow up and just play an important role for us," the Swans coach said.
The 24-year-old experienced an interrupted maiden pre-season at the Swans, dealing with knee tendinitis issues, concussion and COVID-19, but has pressed his case for a spot in Longmire's 22 with two strong showings in the past fortnight.
Ladhams battled strongly against Western Bulldogs pair Stefan Martin and Jordon Sweet in round one of the VFL, before finishing with 24 hit-outs, 17 disposals and eight clearances against the Gold Coast Suns last Friday night.
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While it seems Ladhams may now be afforded an extended run in the team due to Hickey's injury, Longmire joked that you couldn't rule out Hickey returning quicker than normal after he missed just one game last season with a PCL injury that was expected to sideline him for two months.
"That's exactly the same question I asked: if I come out and say six weeks, he's not going to be back in two, is he?"
"I'm hoping that's the case. I'd love to be proven wrong but I'm told that's not going to happen. He's in a brace and it's a different injury, unfortunately we expect him to be out for that six-week period." he said.
Longmire also confirmed that dashing wingman McInerney trained on Monday and will come back into the side this week barring any further mishaps after hyperextending his knee in the round one win over the Giants.
Therabody AFL All-Australian forward Papley is not ready to return, though, from his hamstring injury suffered in a pre-season game in Albury.
"We're pleased with how he's coming along. It was a significant injury and we know what kind of player he is, he plays with real power and intensity so we need to be mindful of that. We're hoping to up his training intensity this week and see what he's like for next week," Longmire said.
With an eight-day break between the loss to the Bulldogs on Thursday night and Saturday afternoon's clash with the Kangaroos, Longmire said 'at this point' that Lance Franklin would play despite suffering a mild corked leg late in the loss to the Bulldogs, and the Swans' tendency to rest him throughout the season.
On paper at least, this looms as a chance for the Swans to do so after North's 108-point hammering at the hands of Brisbane on Saturday night.
"We look at the opposition at their best and that's what we'll do with North Melbourne," the Swans coach said.
"Any team on any given day are able to turn it on and North at their best are a good football team and we need to make sure we play a strong two-way brand of footy."
- with Josh Gabelich