Schoolmates Scott Stevens and Ricky Mott will celebrate their AFL debut
together when they line up alongside idols Tony Lockett and Paul Kelly in
Sydney's premiership opener against Brisbane on Sunday.
Ruckman Mott and forward Stevens, both 20, could hardly have picked a more
auspicious occasion to announce their AFL presence.
Lockett, the league's all-time leading goalkicker, will make his premiership
comeback at the SCG, while skipper Kelly will equal the legendary Bob Skilton's
club record of 165 games as captain.
Coach Rodney Eade said 36-year-old Lockett would more than likely start his
first premiership game since 1999. Eade also expected Brad Seymour to shake off
an Achilles injury to play.
Mott and Stevens had exceeded expectations, according to Eade.
Captain Paul Kelly agreed, citing Stevens as the most improved player for the
Swans over the pre-season.
Kelly said: ``[Stevens] has gone from a kid who played VFL last year to an
important player in our team over the Christmas break. He's become a marking
target for us."
Eade is sticking to the wait-to-see approach which has guided Lockett's
much-awaited return to the team throughout the squad's pre-season.
``We'll just work out what we think is best for the team on the day whether
Tony plays four minutes or four quarters," he said yesterday.
Eade continues to regard Lockett's comeback as a welcome though unexpected
``If he doesn't play well, there's no drama with that," Eade said. ``We
don't have to rely on Tony Lockett."
But so far, Eade has been increasingly satisfied with what he's seen.
``We're very happy with what he's done. If that's the way he's going to play,
I reckon it's going to be a bonus for us.
``I think he's going to improve as he goes along, as he gets his touch
While Mott was expected to play against the Lions because of injuries to
Jason Ball and Stephen Doyle, Stevens earned his place after booting 12 goals in
six pre-season matches.
The two West Australian country products spent three years playing together
at Perth's Wesley College and played age group football for WA before going
their separate ways.
Stevens didn't crack the Swans senior side in his first two years at the
club, while circumstances ensured Mott a senior selection at the first
``It's a special moment for both of us," Mott said. ``It will just be great
sharing it with someone I've grown up with and had a fair bit to do with in the
While Lockett and Barry Hall's addition theoretically made it tougher for
Stevens to crack a senior spot, he said he felt their presence worked in his
``Barry and Tony are taking the good defenders and everyone is busy worrying
about them and that's allowed me in the practice matches to get under their
guard a bit," Stevens said.
Eade said there was ``a bit of bounce" around the club, and he had never
entered any of his previous six seasons at Sydney with so much optimism.
``There are many reasons for this optimism. One is the new recruits and the
improvement and development of younger players, and I suppose you tack on to
that the return of players that were injured last year like Kelly and [Andrew]
Schauble," he said.
Kelly said this year's team would be stronger than the 2001 unit, which had
one of the meanest defensive combinations in the competition.
``Our midfield will be strengthened by some younger blokes who have really
stepped up in the pre-season," Kelly said. ``And up forward, probably our
biggest weakness last year, we will have two big blokes [Lockett and Hall] to
kick to."Broadcaster Tim Lane has pulled out of Channel 9's AFL coverage a day
before the start of the season. Lane said his independence would have been
compromised if he'd called games involving Collingwood alongside Eddie McGuire,
Channel9's high-profile commentator and Magpie club president.
Lane will now commentate exclusively this season for ABC Radio.
SWANS: (from): Barry Hall, Ben Mathews, Brad Seymour, Daryn Cresswell, Ben
Fixter, Paul Williams, Stuart Maxfield, Nic Fosdike, Daniel McPherson, Paul
Kelly, Scott Stevens, Tadhg Kennelly, Michael O'Loughlin, Luke Ablett, Leo
Barry, Jason Saddington, Matthew Nicks, Jude Bolton, Andrew Schauble, Leigh
Brockman, Jared Crouch, Brett Kirk, Amon Buchanan, Adam Goodes, Ricky Mott,
Gerard Bennett, Tony Lockett
BRISBANE (from): Des Headland, Chris Johnson, Michael Voss, Craig McRae, Brad
Scott, Luke Power, Tim Notting, Ashley McGrath, Marcus Ashcroft, Alastair
Lynch, Jason Akermanis, Martin Pike, Mal Michael, Jonathon Brown, Jamie Charman,
Simon Black, Chris Scott, Justin Leppitsch, Dylan McLaren, Craig Bolton, Robert
Copeland, Shaun Hart, Darryl White, Aaron Shattock, Shane Morrison, Daniel
Bradshaw, Beau McDonald, Nigel Lappin