Sydney coach John Longmire says the Swans youngsters will have a critical part to play for the rest of the AFL season, after their premier young gun Luke Parker suffered a likely season-ending injury.
Midfield dynamo Parker was driven off on a stretcher early in the final quarter of Sydney’s 11-point home win over Collingwood on Friday night.
Longmire said Sydney’s reigning best and fairest player suffered a suspected broken ankle, which is expected to sideline him for the rest of the season.
“He’s a very important player to us, and unfortunately he won’t be with us now as far as what we do the back end of the year,” Longmire said.
Sydney were able to come from behind against the Pies despite being a man down after Parker left the field, as defender Jeremy Laidler had already been substituted due to a hamstring injury.
It was a gutsy effort by a Swans team already missing injured spearhead Lance Franklin.
Of the younger brigade, Brandon Jack and the injury-prone Gary Rohan each kicked a couple goals, Isaac Heeney was lively up forward and midfielder Tom Mitchell logged a career-high 41 touches.
Rohan, who had missed Sydney’s previous five matches with a hamstring injury, kept them in the game in the third quarter with two booming set shot goals from outside 50 metres.
“It was pretty special (for him) to be able to come back and provide a real avenue up there,” Longmire said.
“We think that there’re blokes like Gary Rohan and Isaac Heeney and Tommy Mitchell and Brandon Jack who all played pretty reasonable roles for us tonight as young kids.
“So, as well as our senior boys, it was good to see those blokes really contribute.”
Asked how important a role the youngsters would play over the remainder of the season, Longmire said “critical”.
“They are clearly going to have some pretty big roles for us, all those boys.
“We need them playing well and it was a good sign tonight that they were able to play well.”
Longmire praised rookie Heeney for his fearless attack on the football.
“The way that Isaac goes for the footy you can’t be too surprised that he gets himself sore at times,” Longmire said.
“He just launches at it, and we love the way he goes about it.”
Another plus for Longmire was the way his clutch of outstanding midfielders rebounded from a collective off night against Geelong last week.
Leading by example were veterans Josh Kennedy and Jarrad McVeigh, who both logged 34 touches, while Dan Hannebery tallied 31 and Kieren Jack 30.
“They are a pretty proud bunch, and they were disappointed in how they played last week and they bounced back really well tonight,” Longmire said.