Luke Parker has credited the rise of Sydney’s next generation of midfielders for giving him the freedom to venture forward and add the sort of attacking spark that swung Saturday night’s AFL derby their way.
Parker won a record fourth Brett Kirk Medal for his match-winning five-goal performance in their 20-point win over the Giants, with four of them coming during a stretch across the third and fourth quarters when the game was in the balance and he was sent deep by coach John Longmire.
Luke Parker has now won the Brett Kirk Medal four times – more than any other player in the short history of Sydney’s AFL derby.Credit:Getty
Longmire said post-match he felt that the 29-year-old’s knack for hitting scoreboard had long been under-appreciated – at least in contrast to his ball-winning ability, which the Swans co-captain is better known for – while pundits on Fox Footy said Parker was becoming Sydney’s answer to GWS talisman Toby Greene.
A typically modest Parker directed the praise towards teammates like Ollie Florent, Isaac Heeney and James Rowbottom, who ran the midfield in his absence and are blossoming as midfielders so much that the Swans can afford to move experienced players like Parker and Josh Kennedy around.
“Those boys, they’re the ones who are taking their game to another level. And that’s the reason our team’s gone to another level,” Parker told the Herald and The Age.
“When the game’s on the line, when the contest needs to be won, the boys stood up. It’s just time on the field together. Last year, you saw glimpses … being able to now have a core group of players that have really gotten to know each other, we’ve built that synergy and embraced each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s great for the team going forward.”
Parker’s five-goal haul equalled his previous best, which came in round seven of 2015 against Geelong – the side who the Swans will host on Friday night at the SCG.
“It was good fun,” he said. “I didn’t have to leave the 50 too much, I played pretty deep. It was good to get on the end of a few. That’s the good thing about our team, we’ve got a fair bit of depth, so we can change things up if need be.
“That’s what we’ve been working on the last few seasons, is making sure you’re not just pigeon-holed as a one-position player. The reality is we have a lot of depth and we need to be able to play forward, mid – some play mid-back or mid-wing. To be a little bit more versatile is great for our team, we can change things up and give the opposition different looks.”
Lance Franklin kicked only one goal against GWS, ensuring the hype around his impending 1000-goal milestone will continue for another week – much to the chagrin of Longmire and the Swans, who insist it does not get spoken about internally.
But even Parker could sense the heightened level of excitement whenever Franklin neared the ball at Accor Stadium, and said it served him and the team perfectly if opposition teams continued to focus on him.
Phil Davis kept the veteran forward quiet, but Buddy was often double or triple-teamed by the Giants and it was the open space around him, once the ball came to ground, where Parker was able to strike.
“We know how much time the opposition put into Bud. That’s what we’ve been working on, specifically, the last couple of years. You can’t just think Bud’s going to do it all, because as great a player he is, you can’t be too predictable and go to him every time,” Parker said.
“It’ll help him get off the chain the more we can get up – it makes it easier for him. He’s such an incredible player, he’s going to draw the best defender or two and three defenders at a time, so it does help other forwards pop up and kick a few.”
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