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Will fit Naismith tip out Tippett?


Ruckman Sam Naismith has recovered from a hip injury, leaving Sydney with a huge selection call to make ahead of their final AFL game of the regular season.

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Naismith, Kurt Tippett and Callum Sinclair have shared the ruck duties for the Swans at various points of their resurgence from 0-6 battlers to genuine premiership contenders.

However, the three big men simply can’t fit into the same 22.

Naismith has missed the past three games because of his setback but is highly regarded by everyone at the club, with football manager Tom Harley indicating the NSW product is a realistic chance of returning against Carlton at the SCG on Saturday.

“He’s ready to train and train fully, and therefore available to play on the weekend,” Harley said.

“It’s a good problem to have all three available. We’ll need to sit down as a match committee later in the week to work out what it looks like it.

“Those three boys all have different strengths.”

Harley added there was no set pecking order when it came to Naismith, Tippett and Sinclair.

The strengths and weaknesses of the opposition’s ruckman, in this case Carlton’s Matthew Kreuzer, would continue to be a factor in what shapes as one of the Swans’ most difficult selection calls throughout finals.

“It can change every week… we’ll just play it as we go,” Harley said.

Further complicating the conundrum is the Swans’ reserves have this weekend off, a product of topping the NEAFL ladder and earning a bye in week one of finals.

If Naismith is overlooked at senior level he will be short of match practice come week one of the AFL finals.

The absence of a NEAFL fixture will also make it harder for Harry Cunningham and others to push their case for an AFL call-up, with the Swans likely to make few changes this week given their epic victory over Adelaide.

“They’re the cards you’re dealt and you get on with it,” Harley said.

The sixth-placed Swans could finish in the top four but they’ll need both Port Adelaide and Richmond to slip up this weekend.

Meanwhile, crosstown rival Greater Western Sydney’s season-long search for their best 22 continues this week, with coach Leon Cameron likely to change a winning AFL side yet again.

Injuries, suspensions and patchy form ruined Cameron’s hopes of having a settled team at any point in 2017.

GWS have named an unchanged side only once this year, in round three. Even then, Matt Buntine was a last-minute omission.

Buntine hasn’t played since and will miss the rest of the season, one of many serious setbacks that tested the Giants’ depth and resilience.

However, the injury crisis has ended with the recent returns of Jeremy Cameron, Stephen Coniglio, Brett Deledio, Jacob Hopper and others.

Cameron is now pondering how to squeeze key players into the team, rather than who he can call on to cover their absence.

Rory Lobb (groin) and Steve Johnson (knee) both missed GWS’s last-start win over West Coast but are in the mix to return for their crunch clash with Geelong on Saturday.

Cameron, who overhauled his side last week after an impressive win over Western Bulldogs, could yet again tinker with a winning formula.

“Who’s to say the blokes who came in are in the best 22 now?” ruckman Shane Mumford said, having been one of four big-name inclusions last week.

“To have more guys to pick from is massive for us… everyone’s fighting to get a spot in the 22.

“Playing so many guys this year is only going to be good for the future. Young kids, who might not have thought they’d get a game, have had that exposure to AFL.”

Tim Taranto, taken with pick No.2 in last year’s draft, is another Giant on the cusp of a call-up.

Taranto hasn’t played AFL since round 14 following ankle surgery but returned for the club’s seconds last weekend, impressing with 29 disposals.

The Giants may be tempted to give the talented midfielder a game prior to finals; he otherwise won’t play before September as their reserves’ season is over.

It is one of many tough calls at match committee ahead of the game that will decide whether the Giants finish in the top two.


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