He’s been called a traitor, a turncoat and even a money-hungry mercenary. When the siren sounds on Saturday afternoon, none of that will matter because Kurt Tippett will be making his debut in the red and white. Ironically he will get his first taste of game time under John Longmire at the very ground he once called home, AAMI Stadium.
After serving a lengthy suspension for breaching the salary cap during his time at Adelaide, Tippett is now cleared to play for Sydney and will provide another dimension to an already dominant team. His exodus from South Australia was highly controversial and left a bitter taste in the mouths of everyone involved but now it is time for Tippett to prove he was worth all the trouble.
Sydney already have an excellent roster of key position players who were pivotal in its premiership last year and the inclusion of Tippett will be both a blessing and a curse. He will allow midfielders like Jack, Hannebery and Kennedy another avenue for their centre clearances and will also take some heat off young prospect Sam Reid. At the same time his arrival puts John Longmire in a difficult position. He must find a way to manage Tippett and Sydney’s two main ruckmen Pyke and Mumford. Tippett has taken on some of the ruck duties in his time at Adelaide and his increased athleticism compared to the other two players makes him an enticing option.
The dilemma of having a key position surplus isn’t a new problem for AFL teams. Carlton dealt with a similar situation a few years ago when they had Kreuzer, Warnock, Hampson and Jacobs on their list. Sam Jacobs was the odd one out and made his way to Adelaide where he has revitalized his career as one of the premier ruckman in the competition. Sydney might not have to resort to this course of action, especially considering Adam Goodes could retire within in the next two years. His departure would allow Tippett and Reid to be the key forward targets, with Mumford and Pyke holding the ruck duties. Until that time comes however, Longmire will have to juggle these players and figure out a rotation plan.
So the question must be asked, what is the kind of output that would justify Tippett’s tumultuous arrival at Sydney? His best season at Adelaide was definitely 2009 where he kicked 55 goals and averaged four marks and ten hitouts per game. This performance led to Adelaide getting within a kick of a preliminary final and if this kind of effort could be transferred during his time at Sydney, we could definitely see the Swans going back-to-back.
Tippett is currently in the prime of his career and a pairing with Sam Reid could mirror the relationship he had with Taylor Walker last year. They kicked 102 goals between them and were looking like having the best forward partnership since Franklin and Roughead back in 2008. Since Tippett has left, the effect of Adelaide’s ability to score has been felt quite dramatically, even more so now that Walker is out for the year with an ACL injury. Tippett’s impact on games is quite understated and when he is slotted into Sydney’s forward line it will be an intimidating task for many defences in the competition.
Twelve weeks spent on the sidelines and a multitude of abuse and slanderous articles will have only added to Tippett’s motivation for the rest of the year. This is a warning to the rest of the league, Kurt’s back and Sydney are stronger than ever before.