Swan Aliir Aliir may reprise AFL ruck role

Versatile Swan Aliir Aliir could reprise his pinch-hitting ruck role if luckless big man Sam Naismith is ruled out of their AFL clash with Essendon.

Naismith has been struck down with a hamstring concern ahead of Sunday’s match at the SCG.

The 27-year-old ruckman made his long-awaited AFL return in Sydney’s narrow round-one win over Adelaide, after two straight seasons sidelined with knee injuries.

The Swans will give Naismith every chance to prove his fitness, with his tight hamstring put to the test in Thursday’s training session.

“He’s still touch and go at the moment,” Swans captain Dane Rampe told reporters.

“He’s got a little bit of a sore hammy but he’s got to get through today and hopefully end up out there on the weekend.”

Should he fail to pull up well, Swans coach John Longmire may turn to Aliir to plug the hole as he ably did against the Bombers in round 16 last year.

The athletic defender battled bravely as the sole ruckman, finishing with 22 hit-outs, 17 possessions and eight clearances.

“Allir’s proved his versatility before,” Rampe said.

“That’s obviously an option for us.”

After an injury-hampered 2019 campaign, veteran Callum Sinclair was overlooked for the season opener as Longmire opted to go without a second ruckman with reduced 16-minute quarters plus time on.

But Sinclair’s dual forward-ruck ability could earn him a recall as the Swans search for a key target in the absence of Lance Franklin (hamstring) and Sam Reid (knee).

“He’s had a great pre-season and can obviously go forward and take some big pack marks and kick some goals,” Rampe said.

“We’ve got a few options should Sam not get up.”

Rampe nominated jet-heeled Isaac Heeney and livewire Tom Papley as the likely culprits to fill the goal-kicking void.

“We saw what Isaac can do deep as an isolated forward in round one (and) Tom Papley’s only going from strength to strength,” he said.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing what they can do with a forward line to themselves.”

Fellow small forward Ben Ronke (knee) is unlikely to be passed fit until the Swans third-round clash with North Melbourne.

Essendon’s forward stocks have been hit equally hard with Joe Daniher (groin) and Orazio Fantasia (quad) sidelined and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (ankle) in doubt.

But Rampe remains wary of the Bombers’ dynamic mosquito fleet.

“Tipungwuti and (Jake) Stringer are the two that come to mind,” he said.

“We’ve just got to put our work into them and respect them for the players that they are, which is really good ground-level players that are strong above head.”

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