OPINION

Tom Papley shoulders the goal-scoring burden for Sydney Swans

The Swans' Tom Papley marks during the Round 4 AFL match against the Western Bulldogs at the SCG last Thursday. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
The Swans' Tom Papley marks during the Round 4 AFL match against the Western Bulldogs at the SCG last Thursday. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Tom Papley has become one of the AFL's best small forwards, but the livewire Swan can't do it all on his own.

In the absence of injured tall forwards Lance "Buddy" Franklin and Sam Reid, Sydney's ability to kick winning scores consistently has been a major point of discussion and too much responsibility is on Papley's shoulders.

After losing young forward Tom McCartin with concussion, the Swans went with three ruckmen - Callum Sinclair, Sam Naismith and Hayden McLean - against the Western Bulldogs to provide much-needed height in attack, but the tactic failed to work at a slippery SCG.

Papley almost returned to Victoria at the end of last year, but the Swans held firm and his proposed trade to Carlton did not eventuate.

The club's leading goalkicker with 37 in 2019, the speedy, skilful forward has maintained his good form this season, having 10 goals from four games to sit in second spot in the Coleman Medal.

But the Swans need a more even contribution in attack to challenge the better teams. Lewis Taylor and Ben Ronke had no impact in attack against the Bulldogs, Will Hayward played mostly off half-back and Luke Parker and Isaac Heaney did their best work up the ground.

Heeney kicked four goals in Sydney's win against Adelaide in round one and the Swans had nine individual goalkickers in the triumph over North Melbourne in round three.

While Papley was valiant in a losing team by booting four of the Swans' five goals, small forwards made vital contributions towards their side's victories last weekend.

Despite receiving no favours from the umpires, Giants star Toby Greene made a triumphant return after missing last round because of knee soreness.

Greene was best afield against Collingwood, booting three of his team's 10 goals.

Last Saturday St Kilda recruit Dan Butler helped inflict more pain on an out-of-form Richmond, kicking an equal game-high three goals against his former club.

The next day All-Australian Charlie Cameron took a Mark of the Year contender and kicked two goals in the Lions' thumping victory over Adelaide.

Wingard flying high for Hawks

Chad Wingard of the Hawks in action during the match against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Michael Willson/Getty Images

Chad Wingard of the Hawks in action during the match against North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Michael Willson/Getty Images

After an inconsistent 2019, midfielder/forward Chad Wingard is justifying Hawthorn's immense faith in him and is back to his All-Australian form.

Traded by Port Adelaide at the end of 2018 for defender Ryan Burton and three draft picks, the brilliant left-footer has been in superb touch this season.

Apart from a flat game along with most of his teammates against Geelong in round two, Wingard has starred in the Hawks' three victories with his run and carry as well as his ability to set up scores with pinpoint delivery.

He is Hawthorn's leading goalkicker with nine after booting another three majors in a best-afield display against North Melbourne last Sunday.

Dixon a powerful force in attack

While small forwards grabbed most of the spotlight, big forwards showed they can also make a difference.

The strong hands and steady boot of Levi Casboult helped Carlton win a thriller over Essendon and Charlie Dixon, who leads the Coleman Medal with 11 goals, has been instrumental in Port Adelaide's rise this season.

Dixon, who missed the opening round win over Gold Coast with a strained adductor, was supreme in the air against West Coast last Saturday in his best game since the gut-wrenching 2017 elimination final loss to the Eagles.

It is hardly surprising Dixon is feeling at home in the Power's Queensland hub, having spent his first five AFL seasons with Gold Coast. The big forward, who missed the first half of last season with a broken leg, is back crashing packs as the main attacking target and the Power are reaping the benefits.

Port Adelaide have embraced the challenges of being based away from home for a month and the early results have been encouraging for a club that has been disappointing in the past five seasons.

The Power have made only one finals appearance in that period - that elimination final defeat in extra time with a kick after the final siren - and finished just outside the eight in the other four years.

As Port Adelaide celebrates its 150th anniversary, it is also a big year for Ken Hinkley, who is in his eighth season as senior coach. The Power must make the finals to trigger a clause in Hinkley's contract for him to coach in 2021.

The Power's next three games should provide a clearer indication if they are the real deal. They meet two of last year's finalists Brisbane (Gabba) and Greater Western Sydney (Metricon Stadium), followed by an improving St Kilda at Marvel Stadium.

Readers' Question of the Week

Peter Robinson, of Sandy Bay, Tasmania, asks: With the AFL under intense financial pressure due to COVID-19, why would it not take the opportunity to get rid of one of the financially unsustainable clubs and bring in a side from Tasmania?

Peter, I believe Tasmania should already have an AFL licence and agree it would be opportune to bring in Tassie at the expense of one of the poorer Melbourne clubs or Gold Coast. North Melbourne and St Kilda are always in the firing line, while the AFL has poured millions into the Suns for little return so far. It would not surprise me if that dirty word from late last century, mergers, is back in the conversation soon.

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com

Twitter: @hpkotton59

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story Sydney Swans, c'mon: give Tom Papley some support first appeared on The Canberra Times.