Defeated Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has sensationally declared Sydney’s match-winner Tom Papley is among the AFL’s best at milking free kicks, dragging an incredulous John Longmire into another stoush.
The Swans snapped a four-game losing streak and compounded Clarkson’s woes on Saturday afternoon, recording an upset seven-point win at a slippery SCG.
A fired-up Papley booted four goals to grab best-on-ground honours and top spot on the Coleman medal leaderboard, helping his team to come from behind and triumph 9.6 (60) to 7.11 (53).
But the match-winning performance was overshadowed by a candid critique from four-time premiership mentor Clarkson.
Papley produced a rare 12-point play late in the second term which proved decisive in the low-scoring scrap, taking full advantage of a costly free kick from Hawks veteran James Frawley.
The small forward soccered a goal, outmanoeuvring 2018 Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell before getting in the face of his former teammate and letting him know all about it.
Frawley ran in to remonstrate but instead made it back-to-back goals for Sydney, bowling over the pint-sized Swan as Clarkson cringed in the coaches’ box.
“He milks a free kick as good as anyone in the competition and he did so again,” Clarkson told reporters.
“You just wish they were consistently paid to everyone who is knocked off the ball like that. There were five on either side tonight and they paid one.”
A seething Longmire, who earlier this month slammed Richmond coach Damien Hardwick for his post-match analysis of the Swans’ tactics after a low-scoring clash, bristled on hearing Clarkson’s remarks.
“Alastair said that about Papley!?” Longmire said, struggling to find words and hide his disappointment.
“I don’t talk about opposition players.
“I’m not here to comment on that (decision). And I don’t think I will be commenting on opposition players.”
Longmire, whose friendship with Clarkson dated back to their time as North Melbourne teammates, added he had little interest in calling his mate to debrief.
“No, I’ll just worry about us,” he said.
The pair clashed in 2018, when Clarkson had accused Sydney’s players of “getting away with blue murder”, but this bust-up might strain the friendship much further given it is a personal attack on Papley and will take the shine off the Swans’ hard-fought victory.
Papley shed some light on the incident during a post-match interview with broadcasters, suggesting Mitchell “might have had a word to me 20 seconds before that”.
Clarkson also lamented the overall free-kick count of 22-13 which favoured the hosts.
“It’s like an extra player on the ground. That’s the way it goes – there will be games when we’re in front,” he said.
“Swings and roundabouts.”
Longmire heaped praise on Papley, suggesting his competitive streak and will to win rubbed off on teammates, but also co-captains Luke Parker and Dane Rampe.
Rampe’s desperate defending and incisive kicking was all the more impressive given he suffered a hand injury in the opening half.
“He’s tough,” Longmire said, adding he was unsure whether Rampe would miss games because of the setback.