Resilient Swans ruck set for AFL finals

Pilates and the mentorship of Kurt Tippett have helped Sydney ruckman Sam Naismith achieve a rapid rise this AFL season.

Injury and illness stalled his progress after he joined the Swans via the 2013 rookie draft.

But the 24-year-old has played the past seven games for the ladder leaders and is shaping as a key to their premiership push.

“It’s not great to come in as a new player and have about three years of injuries set you back. That’s pretty frustrating,” Naismith said on Thursday.

“But I’ve learned a lot in that time and the big thing that came out of that was resilience and trying to get my body right to withstand AFL footy.

“I’ve done a lot of stuff with the strength and conditioning guys, off-site training with pilates.”

Naismith signed a three-year deal with the Swans last year.

It was a reasonable show of faith given he’d played one game of AFL at that point and struggled to get on the park in 2015 because of glandular fever and a groin injury.

Last week was another indication of how the club rates Naismith, who was retained in the Swans’ 22 ahead of Toby Nankervis following Tippett’s return to fitness.

Naismith relished the chance to play alongside Tippett.

“Kurt has been a great help,” he said.

“Even when I haven’t been playing seniors he’s a good voice and his preparation is just something to be admired.

“It’s been great working with him on the field. It’s only been one game but hopefully there will be a few more.”

The Swans face Richmond at the SCG on Saturday, when they hope to secure the minor premiership.

They’re naturally wary given the Tigers have won their past three clashes with Sydney, including Naismith’s AFL debut in 2014.

“We’ve come up short against them in the last couple of years … (winning) is going to be crucial for our spot on the ladder,” he said.

Naismith, who hails from the NSW country town of Gunnedah, denied he had secured his spot for September.

“It’s a very competitive environment and everyone is pushing for a spot,” he said.

“We’ve still got Callum Sinclair to come back. Hopefully I’ll stay in but I’ll take that as it comes.”

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