SYDNEY coach John Longmire is confident Logan McDonald will overcome the heartache of being dropped for a Toyota AFL Grand Final, after the young key forward was axed ahead of tomorrow's decider against Geelong at the MCG.
With Sam Reid named to play despite suffering a low-grade adductor strain in the preliminary final win over Collingwood, Sydney has decided to recall Hayden McLean for the first time since round eight to provide another target inside 50 and support for Tom Hickey in the ruck.
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McDonald has played 17 games in his second season since being selected with pick No.4 in the 2020 NAB AFL Draft, but the West Australian has only kicked five goals in his past eight games and struggled to make an impact during this finals series.
The 20-year-old has been named as an emergency, alongside Braeden Campbell, Harry Cunningham and Will Gould.
Longmire played his 200th and final game for North Melbourne in the 1999 Grand Final win over Carlton after chronic injuries curtailed his playing career, but before that he was dropped ahead of a preliminary final in 1998 and forced to watch on the following week when the Kangaroos lost to Adelaide.
"It's not easy, I've been on the other side of that conversation as a player. It's not an easy thing to do," Longmire said at a press conference on Friday.
"He is a terrific young player with a great future ahead of him. We made the decision because we thought that was the best line-up for tomorrow. Very tough for him, but he's a great kid and he will bounce back bigger and better.
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"We just have to do the right thing by what the team needs tomorrow. That's where it starts and ends. It's not an easy thing to do, but you go through those decisions and you need to give yourself the best chance against a team that finished two games clear on top of the ladder. We need to get it right at selection."
Sydney co-captain Luke Parker, one of two Swans remaining from the 2012 premiership win alongside Reid, praised McDonald's attitude and ability to handle such a challenging situation.
"I think the boys have been pretty helpful with Logan. I think it's one of the most heartbreaking positions you can be in. He has such a big future at our club, hopefully this is just a small little step downward for him," he said.
"He'll take it hard, but at the same time his attitude has been incredible; he's still preparing like he'll play, all week he's trained like he'll play. It is obviously really tough for him, but the way he's handled it has been incredible."
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When Reid was substituted out of last Saturday's preliminary final at half-time due to an adductor injury, the 30-year-old looked only a remote chance of being fit for the Grand Final.
Longmire said the Swans' confidence grew after Reid received positive scans on Monday and completed some of Thursday's main training session at the SCG.
"We felt when we subbed him out last week that we didn't push him too hard through the course of the game, so that was the first step," he said.
"Then he's got some scans on Monday and that was really encouraging. We were confident from that point.
"He did some training from Thursday, did exactly what he needed to do and felt really good from that. As we sit here now, he is ready to play. We get him to tomorrow and we expect him to be playing."
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Young gun Justin McInerney didn't train on Tuesday after hurting his ankle in the last quarter against Collingwood, but Longmire said he proved his fitness on Thursday and will face the Cats.
"The medical staff have been terrific. They were always confident he'd be right. He finished the game off last week, went back on and finished the game off strongly. He did all of training on Thursday, so he's right to go," he said.
Sydney will return to a fourth Grand Final in 12 seasons under Longmire's watch, searching for a second flag after losing to Hawthorn in 2014 and the Western Bulldogs in 2016.