IT WAS the sight that will have Sydney fans gushing - Kurt Tippett burning off a high-class defender out of the goal square and marking a bullet-like pass from the midfield. The only problem, of course, is it will be another four months before it can happen again.
Lakeside Oval opposite the SCG on a wet February morning is no comparison to the MCG on the last Saturday of September, but the dozens of diehards present for the Swans' intra-club match will have left with heightened optimism.
Such games are seldom accurate form guides for the months ahead but Tippett made the most of what will be a rare opportunity for match practice.
Pitted against All Australian defender Ted Richards or fellow premiership backman Heath Grundy, Tippett kicked three goals, lead and marked strongly and provided a target for his midfielders.
The combination of Tippett and Sam Reid will be a formidable one for opposition defences later in the season if the former Crow can rediscover his best form.
"Kurt Tippett had a really strong hit out and had five or six shots at goal against what a quality defence," said coach John Longmire.
"We were really pleased with that.
"He's got to make the most of these opportunities because he hasn't got many games coming up. It's good to see him getting his hands on the footy and have a number of shots at goal and look really sharp."
But while his teammates now set their sights on the NAB Cup and the season proper, Tippett will be reduced to the role of spectator – albeit a very well paid one.
The challenge confronting the Swans with Tippett is ensuring he will not be too far behind the competition in round 13 when he is available after serving the penalty for his part in former club Adelaide's salary cap breaches.
"We'll work through the frustrations he will no doubt feel at different times in the year being not able to play, but we're confident he can round his game off and work on some things that he needs to work on and get him into the best possible condition for the second half of the year," Longmire said.
"We were pretty competitive last year without him and we're confident we can play really competitive football in the first half of the year without Kurt Tippett."
Adam Goodes will be one of at least four or five Swans from last year's premiership who will not play in the club's opening NAB Cup matches against Greater Western Sydney and Carlton next Sunday.
Goodes is still recovering from the posterior cruciate ligament strain he suffered during last year's grand final.
Other premiership heroes set to miss are Nick Smith, Marty Mattner, Shane Mumford and Mitch Morton.
Longmire said the new rule being trialled during the NAB Cup which caps the number of interchanges at 80 would hinder the Swans in their preparation for round one of the season proper.
"If we've got three or four or five players that we need to play to get match conditioning, it'll be difficult to play them all," Longmire said.
"We're pretty sure we'll find a spot for Adam Goodes but it will be a challenge and something we'll have to manage ... and at the same time get some match conditioning into players who are clearly short from last year."
Among those to impress in Friday's trial match were Andrejs Everitt, Lewis Jetta, the evergreen Jude Bolton and youngster Jake Lloyd, who was the club's first pick in last year's rookie draft.
"We'll be trying to be as competitive as we can in the NAB Cup," Longmire said.
"It's getting that juggling act right as well – to make sure we expose the kids we want to play during the year so we get a list of 30-35 that we're confident in picking.
That's what the next few weeks will be about."