Swans-Hawks AFL rivalry to reignite at SCG

Tom Papley is ready to continue his slanging match with former teammate Tom Mitchell in the latest chapter of the AFL rivalry between Sydney and Hawthorn.

TOM PAPLEY.
TOM PAPLEY. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Tom Papley can't wait to renew his running battle with good mate Tom Mitchell at the SCG on Friday night, when Sydney return to the AFL's most coveted timeslot for the first time in almost 22 months.

The sixth-placed Swans, on track to end a two-year finals absence despite widespread pre-season predictions of more woe, welcome 17th-placed Hawthorn in round 13.

The stakes are not as high as the 2012 or 2014 grand final.

Yet the two clubs, coached by former teammates John Longmire and Alastair Clarkson, have continued to produce memorable matches in recent years no matter their ladder positions.

Lance Franklin's shock shift to Sydney, having just helped the Hawks win the 2013 premiership, and 2018 Brownlow medallist Mitchell's departure to Hawthorn in 2016 added further layers to the rivalry.

But whereas few of Franklin's former teammates are still running around in the brown and gold, plenty of Swans remain close to Mitchell.

Papley collected the three Brownlow votes during the corresponding clash in 2020, when he kicked four goals and swapped barbs with Mitchell.

"I'm good mates with Tommy," Papley told AAP.

"It's always good to be opponents on the field, talk a bit of s***.

"But we're mates off the field, it's all good.

"It's always a close game against the Hawks. It has been a good rivalry over the years, I enjoy it."

It was after the 2020 game that Clarkson memorably accused Papley of milking "free kicks as good as anyone in the competition".

"I don't really care, that's fine," the small forward said of Clarkson's rebuke.

Papley finished the Swans' leading goal-kicker in the past two seasons, when Franklin managed a total of 10 games because of injuries.

That mantle is likely to return to four-time Coleman medallist Franklin this year, while fit-again star Isaac Heeney has added another potent dimension to Sydney's forward line.

"The goals have been shared around. We've done a good job of that his year," Papley said.

"Bud's such a big presence ... but it hasn't been heavily weighted on him."

Papley said the Swans' new-look forward line is still in the process of clicking as they learn what makes each other tick.

"That synergy doesn't happen overnight," the 24-year-old said.

"You have to work on it, most of the time that just means playing with each other

"We're building that, we're getting better."

Clarkson, who revealed mid-season draftee Jai Newcombe will debut at the SCG, noted the Swans' rapid improvement in 2021 showed the wheel can turn "very, very quickly if you get all your ducks in a row".

"That's the process we're going through," Clarkson said.