Sydney’s young guns are relishing the challenge of trying to crash the Matthew Pavlich party in Perth.
The Dockers icon and former captain will make his 350th appearance when the Swans return to Domain Stadium for the first time since narrowly losing a qualifying final to Fremantle last September.
While Fremantle’s fortunes have dropped dramatically since that day, Sydney have remained among the frontrunners this year despite losing plenty of experience and blooding seven debutants.
Swans’ coach John Longmire pointed out earlier this week that around half of the team that represented his club in the 2015 finals clash in Perth won’t be playing on Sunday.
They will however have forward spearhead Lance Franklin, who missed that game because of a mental health issue.
Buddy hasn’t fared well against Fremantle and at Domain Stadium, averaging just two goals a game in both instances, well below his career averages.
Several of the selected Swans side haven’t played there before and were just a few years old when Pavlich started his senior career.
Co-captain Jarrad McVeigh returns to the Sydney team along with ruckman Toby Nankervis, who deputises for the injured Callum Sinclair.
Nankervis will play just his ninth senior game and will team up with the even less-experienced Sam Naismith against Zac Clarke, the sole specialist ruckman in the Dockers lineup.
Pavlich’s return after being rested last week is one of four changes to the side and is sure to rouse the spirits of the Dockers fans seeking some late season joy.
“We’ve played in front of some pretty hostile crowds already this year like Geelong and Hawthorn (and won both games) so it will be pretty exciting and we’re really looking forward to it,” said Swans’ forward George Hewett.
“Freo pride themselves on their pressure and contested ball just like us, so I imagine it will be a physical game.”
Coach Ross Lyon doubted Pavlich’s milestone would provide a game-long spark for his side.
“I think there’s some emotion and that initial burst of energy, but then the game finds its rhythm,” Lyon said.
“It’s unsustainable for 100 minutes, that burst of emotion.”