For the first time in his career, Callum Sinclair will not be stuck in what he calls “no man’s land”.
Throughout his 65-game career at West Coast and Sydney, Sinclair has split his time in the ruck and in the forward 50 as a marking target.
At the Eagles he played second fiddle to Nic Naitanui before crossing to the Swans, where he has competed with Kurt Tippett and close friend Sam Naismith for a position.
Tippett has retired and Naismith’s season is over, which means the 28-year-old is now the club’s No.1 big man.
“I haven’t thought about it like that. I pride myself on playing a variety of roles over my time,” Sinclair said. “It’s fair to say I’ll be spending a bit more time in the middle of the ground. There’s not many of us left.”
Some players prefer the certainty of a set position. Not so Sinclair. His performances last year went some way to explaining why the Swans were so keen to recruit him at the end of 2015, a season which finished with him playing in a grand final.
The highs were dizzying – a dominant five-goal, 10-mark game against St Kilda which earned him three Brownlow votes, and his three goals in the Swans’ elimination final victory over Essendon – but there were times he lacked the impact he would have liked.
“The following week [after St Kilda] against Hawthorn I played in the ruck. You can’t kick a bag every week,” Sinclair said.
“From time to time, my role changed most weeks last year. I probably don’t find it difficult. It’s something I quite enjoy.”
The club’s finals exit was particularly hard to take for Sinclair, who had just two possessions and nine hit-outs, though there were higher-profile players who had poor nights.
“It sat with you over the off season. When you come back into the preseason again there’s a lot going on over the summer – all those tough training sessions take your mind off it,” Sinclair said.
“Looking back on it, it was a tough end to the year. We had such great momentum for three-quarters of the year. We went into every game really, really confident.
“[It was a] bad night, things didn’t go our way. A lot of us didn’t play the way we’d have liked. It certainly leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. You can’t change performances like that. You have to move on.
“It was spoken about a lot last year. The boys are ready to move on and hopefully do a bit better this year.”
Sinclair is “very close mates” with Naismith, whose season is over after rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament during the preseason.
“Absolutely gutted for Sam. He had a really strong preseason and was set for a really big year,” Naismith said. “I’m really feeling for him.”
The Swans can ill afford to lose any more ruckmen but do not expect Sinclair to be wrapped in cotton wool.
“I wish it was that simple. Training is still pretty solid. I love training, love being out on the track,” Sinclair said.
“Ideally, I don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines. I don’t think the club would like it either. If you’re consistently training well, it translates into a good performance game day.”