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The Sydney Morning Herald

Former schoolmates' double debut adds to special buzz at the Swans

Author: Jonathan Pearlman and AAP
Date: 28/03/2002
Words: 795
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 37
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 gift.

``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 back."

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 opportunity.

``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 past."

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 favour.

``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

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