Sydney are wary of trading barbs with ex-Swan Tom Mitchell before they clash with the Hawks.You won’t find anybody at AFL club Sydney willing to offer an inflammatory barb about former teammate Tom Mitchell.
Mitchell returns to the SCG on Saturday as a short-priced Brownlow medal favourite and Hawthorn’s most influential star.
The gun midfielder left the Swans after the 2016 grand final, a product of the salary cap squeeze created by Lance Franklin’s arrival.
Hawks president Jeff Kennett declared on Wednesday that Franklin has never played well against his former side.
Such niggle is not the Swans’ style, particularly when given many of their players remain friends with Mitchell.
“Tom was obviously a much-loved member of our playing group, obviously good mates with the guy,” Swans ruckman Callum Sinclair told reporters.
Mitchell was highly regarded by Swans coach John Longmire during his five seasons at the club. Nothing has changed.
Longmire suggested last year that Mitchell is the league’s best at winning contested ball, joking if “there was one football left in the world and you employed Tom Mitchell to go and find it, he’d find it”.
George Hewett tagged Mitchell in round eight at the MCG. Mitchell was restricted to 20 possessions while the Swans won a thriller without Franklin thanks to Ben Ronke’s seven-goal haul.
Hewett is expected to be given the same tough job in this weekend’s playoff for a top-four spot in the finals.
“We’ll have to wait and see what the coaches are thinking with that one but Tom’s expected a fair bit of attention over his whole footy career,” Sinclair said.
“Tom’s biggest strength is his work-rate. He’s got a massive ability to run around the ground and accumulate a lot of ball.
“He’s done that at the SCG a few times. He certainly knows the ground pretty well.”
Sinclair wouldn’t bite back in response to Kennett but noted Franklin’s “record speaks for itself”.
“He’s been a pretty consistent performer over many years. I don’t think he’ll be taking too much notice of it,” he said.
“I haven’t really give it too much thought. If the playing group’s focus goes down that path of the theatre of footy then our mind’s not really on the job.”
Sinclair has enjoyed a career-best season and shouldered an immense workload in the absence of Kurt Tippett (retired) and Sam Naismith (knee injury).
The 28-year-old is confident he’ll keep running out games well as the Swans seek to progress deep into September.