Lance Franklin has made a quiet return to action, but Sydney youngster Callum Mills has justified the early noise about his potential in the Swans’ NAB Challenge victory over Port Adelaide.
In the final quarter at Blacktown on Saturday, Sydney scored 17 unanswered points amid driving rain to record a 1.10.12 (81) to 1.7.9 (60) victory.
Key forward Franklin hadn’t played a game against another club since round 23 in 2015 after it was revealed he was suffering a mental health issue.
He started at the centre bounce and moved forward later, amassing six touches, one goal and one mark through the first three quarters before getting a break in the last.
“He was fine. It was great to see him back out there again. Good to get a run around,” acting Sydney coach Jarrad McVeigh said.
“We played him through the midfield a little bit to get a few minutes up and I was pleased with the way he went through the midfield and then forward.”
Port coach Ken Hinkley wasn’t upset to see Franklin lining up at the centre bounce at the start.
“It was probably a little bit safer for us when he’s in the centre bounce because he’s done a number on us a few times in the front half, so in there is not so damaging for us,” he said.
Mills, No.3 in the 2015 draft, looked a ready-made player, tallying 22 possessions and five marks, and impressed with the accuracy and efficiency of his disposal.
“I thought he was good. He was composed with the footy,” McVeigh said.
“Our overuse of the ball early wasn’t great. I think he was one of the players to steady us up and then move the ball the way we wanted to, so I thought first up he was great.”
Port led at the first two breaks, but their scoring dried up when the heavens unleashed torrential rain in the final quarter.
The visitors fielded an inexperienced side. Travis Boak, Brad Ebert, Matt Lobbe, Hamish Hartlett, Jay Schulz, Justin Westhoff and Chad Wingard were among those not playing.
“I thought they were really competitive. They tried really hard,” Hinkley said.
Swans youngster Isaac Heeney didn’t reappear after halftime as a precautionary measure following a poke in the eye and a recurrence of tendonitis.
Veteran midfielder McVeigh, who is recovering from a knee injury, was head coach for the day, though he did occasionally consult incumbent John Longmire.
“Sometimes I found myself getting caught up in the game probably a bit too much, and you have to take a step back and then assess the situation,” McVeigh said.
Ball magnets Luke Parker and Tom Mitchell accumulated 32 touches for Sydney, Sam Grey had 21 for Port, and Dean Towers kicked three goals for the Swans.