Sydney ruckman Mike Pyke has gained an incredible two metres to his leap over the past week – but he might struggle to showcase his new-found athleticism against West Coast’s Nic Naitanui this Sunday.
Pyke missed last week’s 89-point loss to Hawthorn with a knee injury, but he returns to bolster a Swans outfit in their top-four clash with the Eagles at Domain Stadium.
Naitanui has played a key role in West Coast’s hot form this season.
The 25-year-old boasts arguably the best leap in the AFL, but Longmire said Pyke had been doing something special to prepare for the battle ahead.
“He’s doing a lot of trampoline work, so we expect him to be able to jump nice and high,” Longmire joked.
Halting Naitanui’s influence in the air and at ground level will be a key focus for the Swans.
But coach John Longmire concedes there’s only so much his team can do.
“You’ve got to get the balance right.,” Longmire said.
“If you do too much study you think, ‘What are we going to do with this bloke?’
“I’m sure Simmo (Eagles coach Adam Simpson) is having the time of his life letting him loose in the centre bounces.
“We know that he’s going to get his hands on the ball a lot of times.
“But our ruckmen need to make sure they try to neutralise the effectiveness of that.
“And our on-ball brigade is reasonably experienced, so we’re relying on that pressure at ground level as well.”
Both teams enter the match missing key players.
Forward Kurt Tippett (hand) and defender Ted Richards (suspended) are big outs for the Swans, while the Eagles will be without hamstrung backman Jeremy McGovern.
Third-gamer Toby Nankervis will be asked to provide ruck support for Pyke, while the Eagles handed 194cm defender Tom Barrass a debut to cover the loss of McGovern.
West Coast sit behind only Hawthorn in scoring potency this season, and Longmire says it will take a team effort to tame the Eagles’ powerful forward line.
“When it goes into their forward line it can’t be lace out,” Longmire said.
“It has to be applied with full pressure, and sometimes that starts in our forward 50.
“The first line of defence is often 10m or 20m directly in front of your goal.
“And if you get that first line of defence right and you get the second and third layers right, then you tend to make it a bit easier for our defenders.”