Rising Sydney Swans star Will Hayward (centre) puts boot to ball during a training session.
Rising Sydney Swans star Will Hayward (centre) puts boot to ball during a training session. PAUL MILLER

Swans rookie says wait for win makes it sweeter

AFL: It took longer than expected but Sydney Swans rookie Will Hayward said the Round 7 wait made his first win in the AFL all the more sweet.

"The longer you wait for it, the more you want it," Hayward told foxfooty.com.au.

"It was a pretty special moment."

In what has been an unusually dour year for the Swans, Hayward has been a rare shining light.

A bolter in last year's draft, Hayward was taken with pick 21, the Swans' second selection and skyrocketed into first-round calculations after impressive performances in the SANFL.

The South Australian product burst out of the blocks on debut with 16 disposals, three marks, six tackles and six inside 50s.

The following week against Collingwood he showed his nous in front of goal, kicking three majors. On three more occasions, Hayward has kicked multiple goals.

It has been some kind of introduction to the world of AFL but the 18-year-old remains humble.

"I think there have been a few games where I haven't played as well as I can," Hayward said.

"I feel like I've played my role but I know I can still do a lot better than that. And that's what I'm trying to do each week, keep building."

Hayward shapes as a long-term forward prospect at the Swans.

At 185cm, he's not in the same vein as a key tall like Lance Franklin, but he's also not in the mould of the crumbing Tom Papley.

He's rangy, athletic and precisely what Sydney has been missing in its forward artillery.

And he's learning off one of his boyhood idols in Franklin.

"He's one of those blokes that, on the field, he's really good with his voice," Hayward said.

"I'm not in the right position, he'll be easy with his direction. He's helped me fit into the forward line a lot."


Will Hayward (left) leaves the field with boyhood hero and Sydney Swans teammate Lance Franklin at the end of play.
Will Hayward (left) leaves the field with boyhood hero and Sydney Swans teammate Lance Franklin at the end of play. TONY MCDONOUGH

While Hayward said he had some initial trepidation before meeting his famous teammate, Franklin had lived up to expectations.

"I think any kid growing up would have been a Buddy fan," Hayward said.

"Before I met him I was a little bit nervous but he was really approachable and just like any other teammate in that respect. He's really funny, approachable and I've learned a lot off him."

While playing alongside Franklin each week has certainly given Hayward a buzz, it hasn't all been smooth sailing.

The grand finalists equalled their longest losing streak of this century with a 0-6 start. Their stars have dimmed and all at the same time.

Even the famous 'Bloods' culture has come under the microscope, with Callum Mills left to fend for himself when targeted by Carlton's forwards in Round 6.

But while Hayward suggested the vision of Mills was damning, it also may have sparked the Swans into action.

Against the Lions on Sunday, Sydney were back to their aggressive best, with any suggestion of physicality met with immediate remonstration.

"The club has a reputation of being a physical, tough team," Hayward said.

"There was some vision of Millsy that we didn't like. We went out there (against Brisbane) and tried to bring back the basics with our physical football and I think we did a good job of it."

Leading the charge was Zak Jones, one of the Swans' emerging stars who has subsequently been linked to a plethora of Melbourne-based clubs this week.

Although it was hard to overshadow Franklin's bag of eight goals, Jones stood out for his line-breaking speed and creativity both off half back and through the midfield.

Hayward suggested the breakout game was reward for effort with Jones one of the most fastidious trainers at the club.

"When I first got to the club in pre-season he was doing what he did yesterday pretty much every training session," Hayward said.

"It's great to see him playing so well because that was the first impression he made on me, being such a hard trainer.

"He trains just like he plays. I'm not surprised and I think he'll have a pretty big year."

News Corp Australia

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