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No sure Betts for Swans defence

Football

John Longmire wants Nick Smith and any other Sydney defender to back themselves when they’re trying to stop Eddie Betts.

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Smith has had some success against the Adelaide star and is likely to start on him in Friday night’s AFL blockbuster at Adelaide Oval.

While Betts is the best small forward in the AFL and is seventh in the Coleman Medal race, the last few weeks have shown he is not unstoppable.

First-year Essendon player Andy McGrath kept Betts goalless on Saturday night and the same happened to the genius goalsneak in the round-18 win over Geelong.

In between, Betts had his appendix removed and returned to kick four goals in the blowout Showdown win over Port Adelaide.

Betts has kicked 45 goals this season and at home, in such a big game, is a massive threat.

Asked if Smith would start on Betts, Longmire said: “That would be a reasonable assumption.”

“Any of our back six who go to him will have their hands full,” he said.

“You can’t afford to switch off (against) Eddie Betts – his mind is thinking a million miles an hour, every second of the game.

“But it’s also understanding that you need to be confident in what you do as a team, as an individual playing on him.

“You can stick to what you know works… trying to apply that to the best of your ability.”

While the first-placed Crows will start favourites, Sydney have won 12 of the last 14 matches.

The Swans are now fifth and breathing down the necks of fourth-placed Richmond.

But Longmire notes that the Crows lead most key team statistics and are top for a reason.

“You can’t spend too much time looking at the stats, because you might get a little bit concerned,” he said.

“They’re an A-grade team who deserve their position on the ladder – it will be a massive challenge for us.”

A feature of the blockbuster will be Adelaide, the AFL’s highest-scoring team, taking on the most miserly defence.

“When you give that talented forward group the supply they can get at times, it does make it difficult for any back six,” Longmire said.

“We have an idea of what it might look like, but we won’t settle on that until later in the week.

“We need to have some flexibility in that thinking as well, because it depends upon where players start and the type of match-ups we’d like as well.”

Longmire said captain Josh Kennedy trained well on Monday and is set to return from two matches out with a hamstring problem, provided he proves his fitness at Wednesday training.

“Obviously if he gets through that, he’ll be playing on Friday, which is good news,” coach John Longmire said of his captain.

The same applies to young defender Nic Newman, who had Sydney worried when he hyperextended his right knee in Sydney’s cakewalk against Fremantle.

Longmire said Newman had pulled up better than expected.

“He’s pulled up quite well today, so he’s still a chance this week – it obviously depends on how he goes on Wednesday,” he said.

Adelaide expect leaders Taylor Walker and Rory Sloane to overcome injury and play against Sydney. Walker (foot) and Sloane (knee) received treatment during Adelaide’s win against Essendon last Saturday night, but completed the game.

“They’re obviously still a little bit sore,” Crows assistant coach Scott Camporeale told reporters yesterday.

“They will go through the process of getting evaluated today… but they played the game out so we’re hopeful they’ll be right to play.”

Sloane revealed on Sunday he had been troubled by a sore knee for some time, but the Crows are giving no thought to resting their premier midfielder ahead of the finals.

“A lot of players are carrying sore spots, injuries… Sloaney is no exception,” Camporeale said.

“That is the way he plays. He’s a combative player, he is going to be sore.

“But as you have seen, he has been able to play the season out so far, so I don’t think there will an issue.”

The Crows are assured an initial home final, with a six point break at the top of the table.

But they have a poor recent record against the fifth-placed Swans, who beat them in a semi-final last year and have won five of the past six games between the clubs.

“Pretty important game Friday night, I would have thought, after what Sydney did to us in the final,” Camporeale said.

“I don’t think it will be a motivator but we learnt some valuable lessons out of that game.

“We like to think we have improved since that final… but Sydney is a great test, they are probably the form team of the competition.

“It will be a great opportunity for us to see where we’re at going into the finals.”

-AAP 

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