Sydney Swans coach John Longmire and said that he is hopeful that Aliir Aliir and Lewis Melican will be able to take some of the load off the more experienced veterans of the backline in 2018.
Both have had successful runs in the team before injuries and/or form meant that they struggled to get back into the team.
Aliir enjoyed his most successful year in 2016 bursting onto the scene midway through the season and being one of the reasons the swans had such a successful year. Unfortunately for the dashing defender a knee injury finished his year prematurely, missing out on the Grand Final loss to the Bulldogs.
A toe problem in the pre-season and form struggles limited Aliir to just three games in 2017.
Melican was ultimately the surprise package of the year for the Swans in 2017, managing seventeen games following his Round 5 debut. The young defender had shown composure and maturity before a quad injury just prior to finals that meant the twenty-one year old missed out of the finals campaign.
Longmire is eager to encourage the young stars to take on more responsibility in 2018 as veteran Heath Grundy, 31, moves towards the end of his career. On Monday, Longmire spoke of the importance of the two heading into 2018 and beyond, “these guys really need to take over that defence and help our experienced players and help lighten the load for them”.
Aliir is currently working his way back into full training with the Swans taking a cautious approach not wanting his toe to flare up again like last pre-season. However, Longmire said that the key defender had been working hard and he was sure that he would be able to recapture his 2016 form.
On Monday, the Swans more experienced players (those having been in the AFL system for five or more years) returned to the track. The first to fourth year players have been training for two weeks already.
Many of the more experienced players won’t be in full training until January, however it gives the younger players a chance to stand up, and the likes of Aliir and Melican to show Longmire that they are ready to take on the responsibility.
Grundy, superstar Lance Franklin and captain Josh Kennedy were amongst the core group of senior players who participated in a smaller part of training than many of their less experienced counterparts.