Sleepless in Sydney ... Ryan O'Keefe. Photo: Quentin Jones
TAGGERS and their tactics might be talking point of the AFL right now but that's the least of Ryan O'Keefe's problems. Adelaide could throw any of their best stoppers at the Swans' star on Saturday night - he couldn't care less. He's more interested in a decent night's sleep.
O'Keefe's wife, Tara, gave birth to the couple's second child last week and it's been a typically challenging time at home for the pair, especially in the pre-dawn hours. But he knows from experience that things will get better, just as his fortunes on the field have lifted, too.
The 31-year old is on the path back to his best after suffering bone bruising to his knee in a training incident in late February and after making his comeback in round two against Fremantle, he's improved his possession tally each week from two to 15 to 16 and then 21 touches and two goals in last weekend's win over Hawthorn, 15 of which were accumulated in the first half as the Swans struggled to stay in the contest.
He'll need to produce even bigger numbers this week if his side are to overcome their bizarre home hoodoo against the Crows, where they've lost three straight at Moore Park.
"I don't know why it is - some of these teams beat other teams and they have a really good record against us, even up here," he said yesterday. "It's going to be a really tough game for us. It's going to be one of the biggest challenges of the year."
A challenge it may but with the AFL community abuzz at the prospect of the Swans challenging again for another premiership, O'Keefe isn't yet dreaming of September glory.
"That's a little bit far off to dream about. I've got bigger things to worry about at the moment like a new born baby at home. I'm just dreaming about getting some sleep," he said. "We're not too worried about that."
While the Swans' tremendous second-half against the Hawks has had the critics quickly revising their pre-season predictions for both clubs, they know can't always afford to start slowly like they did in Launceston.
"I think we have to make it a focus. Adelaide are tremendous at their contested footy and it's going to be on early," O'Keefe said. "We have to make sure we bring our best early, not give them a start and let them into game. If that's the case they'll jump ahead."
Long known as a team who craved stoppages under the tutelage of Paul Roos, O'Keefe believes the side have added genuine speed to their midfield, giving them another dimension to their ball movement.
"It's good to have a bit of pace," he said. "I think over the years we've been a very inside team and had those really contested, hard nuts in there but I think we've got some really good speed with Kieran [Jack], "Jets" [Lewis Jetta] and a few of the young guys, which is really good."
Swans coach John Longmire is hoping the Sydney public will respond to the side's 5-0 start by coming out in force on Saturday night, with some chance the reduced-capacity SCG will be filled.
"I think there's a few seats left and it would be fantastic if we could get a sell-out," he said. "It'd be great for footy and great for our football club to have that kind of demand for tickets and with Adelaide having a strong following in Sydney, it'd be great for the Sydney Swans supporters to come out, wear their red and white and make a big crowd."
One player Sydney will need to quell is Patrick Dangerfield, who racked up a staggering 39 disposals in an electrifying performance in the Showdown against Port Adelaide. Longmire admitted it might not be possible to do that - just as it sometimes proves with Adam Goodes.
"The challenge with Paddy Dangerfield is often when you're trying to not to let him run free, he runs free anyway," Longmire said. "It's a bit like "Goodesy". You can try and have someone on [Dangerfield] but he's got such a burst of speed and he's so powerful that he can generate a five-metre gap on whoever he's on really quickly. Goodesy is a bit similar to that."
Longmire confirmed Nick Malceski (jarred knee) and Lewis Roberts-Thompson (jaw) had been cleared of any serious injury but that both would have to prove their fitness at training today.