Jude Bolton has backed Sam Reid and Kurt Tippett to fill the Lance Franklin-sized gap in Sydney’s attack for the start of the AFL finals.
The Swans great and Seven Network commentator noted that Reid and Tippett would take strong form over the past few weeks into Saturday’s qualifying final against minor premiers Fremantle at Domain Stadium.
Franklin’s absence because of health issues is the latest of several significant personnel blows for the Swans.
Co-captain Kieren Jack (knee) and fellow midfielder Luke Parker (ankle) are also sidelined, while Nick Smith (hamstring) is in doubt.
But Bolton and former Swans coach Paul Roos said Sydney, with their famous Bloods culture, would relish the challenge of beating the Dockers in Perth.
As Sydney power into the finals with four-straight wins, Reid has also stepped up his form.
He has taken 31 marks in the past three weeks and kicked six goals.
“He’s such a confidence player, Sam, and I really believe he’s got his confidence up,” Bolton told AAP.
“He’s just on fire and Tippett is really relishing that forward-ruck role.
“He’s had some real statement games in the last month or so.
“Both of them have increased their confidence and are backing themselves to do their role.”
A premiership key forward three years ago when he was just 20, Reid has been less prominent since the arrivals of high-profile teammates Franklin and Tippett.
He has spent time further up the ground and in the ruck, but last week’s 11 marks and three goals against Gold Coast showcased his ability in attack.
Bolton added Sydney were moving the ball much better out of defence and through the midfield, meaning better opportunities for their forwards.
“It’s a monumental challenge with the injuries and obviously a leave of absence with Buddy, but they love that underdog tag,” Bolton said.
“It is such a team ethos at the Sydney Swans, the fact that it doesn’t matter what sort of cattle they have running out there.
“They’ve had some big wins travelling interstate.
“It holds no fear to head to Perth, even though they battled there a little earlier this year.”
Roos agrees that regardless of Sydney’s problems, they will take on Fremantle thinking they can win.
“What they do have is a really core group, a nucleus of guys who know how to play and know how to play finals football,” the current Melbourne coach said.
“They know how to prepare and they know how to go about their business.”
But Roos also noted Dockers coach Ross Lyon would know what’s coming.
Lyon was an assistant coach under Roos at Sydney in the mid-2000s.
“Ross has been part of that, creating it along with John (Longmire), so Ross would understand exactly what he faces,” Roos said of Sydney’s Bloods culture.
“He won’t get sucked in by ‘well, he’s out, he’s out, he’s out’ – he understands that Freo have to play their best footy to win.”
SYDNEY WITH AND WITHOUT LANCE FRANKLIN IN 2015:
* With: 13-4
* Without: 3-2
Sydney’s leading goalkickers this season:
* Lance Franklin 47
* Kurt Tippett 39
* Adam Goodes 23
* Luke Parker 18
* Sam Reid, Isaac Heeney 15