29 Mar 19

Finding a replacement for the big hole left by injured key forward Sam Reid will not be Sydney’s only headache as the reigning premiers chase their first top-four scalp of the season against Essendon.

The Swans are searching for a way to stop the red-hot run of Jobe Watson, whose form has some good judges tipping him to win back-to-back Brownlow Medals this year.

Watson, averaging nearly 30 touches a game, was a clear best-on-ground last week and ranks highly in key areas such as total disposals, uncontested possessions and centre clearances.

Sydney captain Kieren Jack rated Watson as up there with the best midfielders in the league.

“He’s certainly up there, absolutely,” said Jack, whose team have lost two and drawn one of their three matches against the current top this year.

“His inside work is without doubt one of the best in the competition.”

The Swans, through a three-man tag team of Jack, Jarrad McVeigh and Nick Smith, were able to limit Gold Coast champion Gary Ablett to a relatively quiet 24 touches.

A similar output this week from Watson would be considered a plus for the Swans, who have found the Essendon captain extremely difficult to nullify in recent seasons. The powerfully built Watson has polled Brownlow votes in five of his past six games against the Swans.

“He’s just a really big-bodied midfielder. He’s very similar to a Josh Kennedy,” Jack said.

“They’re big frames, they can probably play key position forward but they’re running around the midfield. They’re tough to mark, they’re tough to handle. We’ll certainly have our hands full.”

The Swans will need to restructure their forward line after Reid was ruled out until the bye at the earliest due to a quadriceps strain he suffered against Collingwood.

The young gun will miss the games against Essendon and Adelaide but the Swans are aiming for him to return in round 13 against Port Adelaide, which is also when prized recruit Kurt Tippett is tipped to make his long-awaited debut in the red and white.

Reid has kicked only seven goals this season but his defensive work is highly rated by the Swans’ match committee.

Jack said the youngster was in no danger of having to earn his spot back through the seconds after Tippett serves his ban.

“I wouldn’t have thought so. Sam’s a very vital member of the team. [He’s] certainly a talent and the work he does defensively and off the ball certainly goes unnoticed, but we see what he does,” Jack said.

“He’s very important structurally to us. He takes a key defender out of the way and is really good competing for the ball. We’ll need someone to stand up and take his spot.”

The door is now wide open for either Tommy Walsh or Jesse White to earn a senior recall.

Walsh bagged seven goals and White kicked four in the seconds last week but both have tended to struggle to make the the massive leap from the NEAFL to the elite level during their time at the Swans.

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