Sydney coach John Longmire is playing down the return of valuable ruckman Kurt Tippett for Saturday’s AFL clash with North Melbourne but admits the timing of his long-term injury layoff has been perfect.
Missing since the Swans’ round 12-loss to GWS on June 12, Tippett has recovered from hamstring surgery and is ready to play this weekend in Hobart.
“It was certainly relevant for him to have the operation when he did. It’s allowed him to get back now rather than waiting until next year,” Longmire said on Thursday.
“He’s missed a bit of football but, once he gets into the team, he will just be expected to play a role in the team like everyone else.”
Up against a Kangaroos outfit looking to cement a place in the top eight, the Swans will come under pressure on Saturday but Tippett has Longmire’s confidence.
“He will be expected to play like anyone else and contribute to the team so that’s what our expectations are based upon his injury management, but also what he’s been able to do (in training) over the past couple of weeks,” the coach said.
“Obviously, we know that the game is going to be another step up but he just has to play a role. He doesn’t have to come out – like all our players – and absolutely dominate. It’s just about playing a role for the team that helps us be competitive.”
Tippett will be considered for a permanent spot in the Swans’ forward line to bolster the side’s experience up front, although Longmire said the 29-year-old is fit enough to play in the ruck.
“He could possibly play as a permanent forward,” the coach said.
“We know he’s capable of playing in the ruck. He’s done enough ruck work at training over the last couple of weeks to be able to play in the ruck if required.”
In Tippett’s absence, young ruckmen Sam Naismith and Toby Nankervis have proven themselves to Longmire.
So too have youngsters in the forward line – Isaac Heeney, George Hewett and Tom Papley – who the coach has credited with aiding Sydney’s recent scoring ability, including last round’s 70-point win over St Kilda.
“It’s always a help if you’re able to get your intensity and your pressure around the ball, particularly in the front third,” Longmire said.
“If you’re able to lock the ball in and put enormous pressure on the opposition in defence and get those repeat entries, it’s certainly an important part of the game.”