Stars align for Hawks clash: Lance Franklin and Kurt Tippett. Photo: Janie BarrettSydney will field its all-star forward line against Hawthorn after welcoming back Kurt Tippett for Saturday night’s clash at the MCG.
Tippett will join fellow star signing Lance Franklin in the Swans’ forward 50 after proving his fitness at training on Thursday. To counter the influence of the twin towers, the Hawks have key defender Josh Gibson back in the team.
Gibson has not played since the last clash with Sydney when he suffered a pectoral injury but the Hawks have been willing to select him at senior level without a VFL hit-out.
The Swans have named Tippett in their 22, at the expense of speedy small forward Brandon Jack, but left out injured premiership pair Rhyce Shaw and Dan Hannebery, who are recovering from ankle injuries.
It will be only the sixth time the Swans have been able to play their dream forward pairing of Tippett and Franklin. Tippett’s inclusion is a huge shot in the arm for the Swans’ chances of setting a club record 13 consecutive victories.
The gun forward, playing in his first game of the season, starred with four goals in the Swans’ 19-point win over the Hawks in round eight, and also gave Alastair Clarkson’s side big headaches in the 2012 preliminary final when playing with Adelaide.
In an ominous warning, Tippett kicked more goals than Franklin in his first three games this season before succumbing to a knee injury. He has six games in the lead-up to the finals to hit peak form and fitness.
The stakes are high for the Swans, who will move two games clear of third place if they beat Hawthorn. That would leave them in the box seat to stage two home finals in September.
”It’s a massive advantage if you can finish top two,” said Sydney defender Nick Smith. ”Mind you, we’re focused on this week. What happens in subsequent weeks will look after itself. But we really want to come out and play our best footy on Saturday night.”
This week’s game is the first of a run of three the Swans play against fellow finals aspirants. Should they win on Saturday and then account for Essendon and Port Adelaide, there is every chance they could enter September on an 18-game winning streak as they play St Kilda, Western Bulldogs and Richmond in the run home.
”After we lost to North [Melbourne in round four] and we were 1-3, it was a bit of ‘jeez, what’s going on here?”’ Smith said. ”You don’t really contemplate winning the next 12.
”We’ve just got on a roll and we have improved as well.”
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