Injury-hit Sydney insist they still have sufficient resources to subdue a surging North Melbourne side on the threshold of creating AFL finals history this weekend.
Since the AFL adopted an eight-team finals format in 1994 no team has made it through to a preliminary final from eighth place, which is where the Kangaroos finished the home and away season.
They are coming off a morale-soaring win over Richmond while the Swans expended enormous energy in a close qualifying final loss away to minor premiers Fremantle.
A Sydney defeat in Saturday night’s semi-final at ANZ Stadium would definitely finish the career of retiring defender Rhyce Shaw and would also probably signal the end for Adam Goodes, who has yet to announce if he will continue into an 18th season.
Sydney’s defence will be fortified by the return of Nick Smith, but the absence of Lance Franklin and Sam Reid decimates their key-forward options and injuries to Kieren Jack and Luke Parker deplete their midfield depth.
After recalling nine rested players last weekend, the Kangaroos have named an unchanged side.
North have momentum in their favour but the famously resilient Swans are adamant they can muster sufficient energy to beat the Kangaroos.
“We’re going to have our work cut out for us, but we are really looking forward to the challenge,” Swans’ defender Dane Rampe told AAP.
“It’s going to be tough, but that’s the way we like it.
“I think if anything we’ve shown ourselves and proved to the footy world that the players that do come in, really do have an impact.
“Dean Towers and Brandon Jack have come in the last couple of weeks and really played important roles for us and we have full faith in them going forward.”
Rewind 12 months and it was North who according to captain Andrew Swallow were “cooked” going into the preliminary final clash with Sydney off the back off two strength-sapping finals wins.
Swallow feels they are much better placed physically than last year when Sydney flogged them by 71 points.
“You’ve got to look back at it. It’s good motivation to go up there and get the job done,” Swallow said.
“I’m definitely feeling much better now than I was this time last year.
“I think we’ll be in better nick.”
Both sides have changed significantly since last year’s finals clash.
Sydney are missing six premiership players including Franklin and the departed Nick Malceski.
The Kangaroos have been enhanced by classy recruits Shaun Higgins and Jarrad Waite, who are among seven of their players to have kicked at least 23 goals this year, a tally only three Swans can match or better – including the absent Franklin.