Sydney coach John Longmire says Geelong forward Tom Hawkins will be virtually unstoppable if the star-studded Cats midfield is allowed to have its way at Simonds Stadium on Saturday.
The Swans must win to ensure an AFL top-two spot and home final.
Despite narrow losses to Hawthorn and Collingwood over the past three rounds, they will take confidence from having beaten Geelong at the SCG in round 13 and on their most recent trip to Simonds Stadium last season.
But Longmire says the Cats are playing better than at either of those times.
“Mainly just all their good players are playing well,” he told reporters on Friday.
“The second half of the year, Geelong’s super players are playing really well.”
Longmire said with a selection of the competition’s most decorated players rotating through Geelong’s midfield, no Swans’ midfielder could afford to give his opponent space.
“Hopefully none get off the chain,” he said.
“I’m sure some will get the ball but we’ve got to make sure we pressure them so players like Tom Hawkins don’t get access to real quality ball.”
Hawkins entered the round with a season tally of 58 goals, two behind AFL leader Matthew Pavlich.
With 25 of those having come in the past six rounds, along with 37 marks, Longmire said Swans’ key defenders Ted Richards and Heath Grundy would have minimal chance of restraining the powerful 24-year-old without upfield help.
“If it comes lace out, I don’t think there’s too many players that can really beat him in a one-on-one situation,” he said.
The Cats have been strengthened by the return of forward-ruckman Nathan Vardy for his first game this season, skipper Joel Selwood and veteran backman Matthew Scarlett in what might be his last game in Geelong.
The Swans have regained Jude Bolton from a knee injury and included Irishman Tommy Walsh for just his third AFL game, replacing key forward Sam Reid (glute), who is expected back for the club’s first final.
Longmire said Bolton’s return was significant, particularly after it was feared he might have sustained a major injury when he hyperextended the knee in round 18.
“I thought that might have been it for him, certainly for the year,” Longmire said.
“Not many players come back after something like that happens to them.
“For him to come back and be bouncing around like he is, is a real bonus for us.”