Lance Franklin headlines a strong Swans outfit for this weekend's opener against GWS.

Lance Franklin headlines a strong Swans outfit for this weekend's opener against GWS. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Lance Franklin will make his eagerly anticipated season debut for the Sydney Swans in a Sydney team almost unrecognisable from the injury-ravaged side which limped out of last year's premiership race.

There will be at least five and possibly as many as seven Swans facing Greater Western Sydney this Saturday who did not feature in the preliminary final defeat to Fremantle, including three wearing the red and white for the first time.

Such is the depth of talent at the Swans' disposal they will be able to add Franklin, premiership stars Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Sam Reid and Rhyce Shaw and young gun Tom Mitchell to a side that fell two wins short of claiming back-to-back flags.

Franklin takes a mark during a pre-season game.

Franklin takes a mark during a pre-season game. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Franklin will be the headline act in the fifth edition of the Sydney Derby and could be joined in his Swans debut by the club's two other free-agent signings from last year - Jeremy Laidler and Tom Derickx.

The pair have both featured in the Swans' practice matches and are pushing hard for senior selection in round one.

Laidler, recruited from Carlton where he was starved of senior opportunities last year under Mick Malthouse, is in line for a berth in the Swans' defence as a backman who can play on forwards of all sizes.

Lance Franklin poses for a photo with a young supporter during the Sydney Swans AFL Fan Day this week.

Lance Franklin poses for a photo with a young supporter during the Sydney Swans AFL Fan Day this week. Photo: Getty Images

Although the 24-year-old plays a similar role to Dane Rampe, who made an excellent transition from park football to the elite level last year, Swans coach John Longmire said both men could feature in the same 22.

That could free up creative running types such as Nick Malceski and Rhyce Shaw to play further up the ground, Longmire said.

"To have those in the back six who can play talls and smalls gives us flexibility to play the others on the wings," Longmire said.

Derickx is vying with Roberts-Thomson to be the back-up ruck to Mike Pyke while Tippett overcomes a knee injury.

Derickx, 26, was signed from Richmond, where he managed only two games in three years. Roberts-Thomson may also be required in defence against the Giants' mega-sized forward trio of Jeremy Cameron, Tom Boyd and Jonathon Patton.

There will be at least four changes to the last Swans team seen at AFL level after the retirement of stalwart Jude Bolton and the departures of Shane Mumford, Andrejs Everitt and Jesse White.

But the influx of talent has many believing the Swans remain a genuine premiership contender this year after having their 2013 campaign crippled by injury to several senior players.

The competition for places is already hot and will grow fiercer in the coming weeks when Adam Goodes, Kurt Tippett and Alex Johnson - the only three unavailable from the Swans' best 22 this week - step up their preparations for the season.

Tippett has resumed running and is given an outside chance of returning in round two against Collingwood. Johnson, who endured two knee reconstructions last year, could play a half in the reserves if he can train this week, Longmire said.

Goodes, however, is listed as being four to six weeks away from resuming after the posterior cruciate ligament injury that cruelled his 2013.

"He did almost everything for the majority of January and went to take the next step into the ball work, the high intensity stuff, and his knee got sore," Longmire said.

"We backed him right off and decided to give him a good block of six weeks and now he's back running, but the challenge will be the next step. We're hopeful the next step he can get over this time."