Hayward keen to tackle former Swan Aliir

It will be mate against mate at Adelaide Oval on Saturday when Sydney forward Will Hayward tackles Port Adelaide star recruit Aliir Aliir.

Former Swans defender Aliir, a one-time favourite son of the red-and-white faithfuls, was traded to Port at the end of 2020 to the shock of many but it has the makings of a win-win deal.

The form of key defender Tom McCartin has helped Sydney fill the void left by the 26-year-old’s departure, while the trade crucially enabled Sydney to successfully pursue ruck revelation Tom Hickey.

Aliir’s form, having yo-yoed while performing a range of roles in recent years, is at career-best level and has been a crucial part of Port’s 9-4 start.

Saturday, when the Swans travel to and play in Adelaide under strict COVID-19 protocols, will mark Aliir’s first match against his former club.

Hayward, having previously matched up on Aliir at training and in intra-club clashes, can’t wait.

“It’ll be good. He’s a good mate of mine,” Hayward said ahead of the contest between fifth-placed Port and sixth-placed Sydney.

“He knows how I play and I know how he plays … it’ll be interesting, I’m looking forward to it.

“He’s been playing really good footy. He’s been intercepting for them really well, he sets up a lot of their ball movement.

“He’s a great player. We always knew that, we’ll make sure we watch him.”

Hayward and teammates have, with the exception of training sessions, been in strict hotel lockdown since relocating to Melbourne on Tuesday night.

The 22-year-old is ready to adapt to whatever is thrown at him, having been given the green light to face the Power.

Hayward suffered a concussion during the Swans’ last-start loss to Hawthorn but the timing of the club’s mid-season bye means he won’t miss a single game.

“I was a bit dazed for a few seconds,” he said.

“Those concussion tests are pretty hard to pass … even on my best days, I struggle.

“A bit frustrating but the silver lining was that we had the bye.”

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