Canadian Pyke mounts his challenge

by Merryn Sherwood

 

I have to say, I’m already a little bit in love with Mike Pyke.

Not just because his name rolls off the tongue so lightly, although that’s part of it, and not just because he is a Canadian international rugby fullback that just through he would give Australian Rules football a go, but generally because ‘Pykey’ is probably thinking right about now, ‘wow, this game is bloody tough,’ and admits it.

Surely everyone knows the Pyke story by now? So let’s skip the details on how he was fed up with playing rugby in France and decided, on a mates insistence, to contact an Australian sports agent and send his tape to the Swans. Last week Pyke was added to the Swans senior list. Paul Roos even wrote a note congratulating him on the Swans website. But also added he wasn’t likely to play against St Kilda.

Pyke played for the Swans reserves in the AFL Canberra grand final re-match. The Swans won that last year by a point after the siren. Yes, a point. AFTER the siren. It was their fourth consecutive premiership in the ACT league, but it meant the most. Belconnen choked, they had a huge lead and completely stopped at three-quarter-time.

On Sunday it was different, each team had a huge turnover of players. Belconnen claimed revenge, but it wasn’t so much revenge as a new start in a new year.

Pyke started in the ruck. His aerial ability is excellent. If playing AFL was all about winning the ball in the air, Pyke would already be a star. He got to the ball almost every time, and his taps were mostly to the Swans advantage. But a few left Ryan Brabazon and Luke Ablett, who was playing in the reserves on Sunday after the sudden death of his cousin Ryan on Saturday, scrambling to try and win the ball. But still, in just his fifth proper game, the ruck isn’t what’s keeping him back from AFL level.

Where it kind of all falls down for Pyke is off the ball. After he had won the ruck contest and the ball was cleared, he kind of ran in the general direction of the ball but generally hovered around the centre watching what his team-mates did. A few times you could sense with a frustrated look on his face as he stood far away from where the action was, he was thinking something along the lines of ‘geez, where am I supposed to be now?’

When told to drift forward by the runner though he filled that role surprisingly well. He kicked two goals for the Swans in the third-quarter, Sydney’s only majors in that term. The first came from a free kick for in the back, and 25m out on a decent angle in the left pocket, from a small run-up he managed a fairly nice kicking action to slot it straight through. The next was on the run, about 35m straighter and he kicked that one nicely as well.

Overall he finished with seven touches, five kicks, two handballs and two marks.

I asked him afterwards what he thought. I complimented his rucking in the question and he offered himself a small compliment back, saying he thought he did understand that bit and was going ok, with a frustrated tone though he admitted he still has a long way to go to find out where he should run after the stoppage.

Well you know what Pykey, I think you are doing ok. This game is bloody hard, but I like that you admit that and keep trying. It’s like a little bit of Aussie battler coming through.

Whatever does happen for the Swans ruck department, there isn’t much pressure on the Canadian this year.

The other two ruck prospects in the Swans reserves, Daniel Currie and Jake Orreal are both turning out to be fine ones. Currie has the look of a 200-gamer. He is strong, smart, skilful and doesn’t shy away from a big mark or goal when forward. Jake Orreal is a former volleyballer and basketballer that has also developed a nice sense of his role in the game, it’s just his skills that occasionally let him down. On Sunday a few marks bounced straight off his chest.

But still, they will both be there, Currie in particular, for the Swans this year. Leaving Mike Pyke to learn his craft wandering around Manuka Oval. Which in coincidence, is almost exactly the same size at the MCG. He could be there yet.

 

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Mike Pyke has more than got it by now he is a very good player who has been a vital part of a premiership side and with the departure of , Mumford , Sydney will hope ge takes the next step and becomes one of the games elite big men
    Thanks Merryn

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