Rampe lining up for 200th game as Swans face ‘litmus test’

As one-time AFL reject Dane Rampe prepares to play his 200th game, the Swans face a three-week stretch which could establish them as genuine top-four contenders.

Fifth-placed Sydney meet fourth-placed Carlton in Melbourne on Friday night followed by Richmond (8th) and reigning premiers Melbourne leading into the bye.

The availability of midfielder James Rowbottom will depend on whether the Swans successfully challenge a one-match ban for rough conduct.

After breaking a two-game losing streak with a rollicking win over Essendon, co-captain Rampe believes the Swans are well-placed for the challenge ahead.

“I wouldn’t say it’s season-defining, but I think it’s a big opportunity these next three weeks and a bit of a litmus test,” Rampe said at the SCG on Monday wearing a specially-designed indigenous jumper to launch Sir Doug Nicholls Round.

For Rampe to be running out in a milestone game as a team leader is a remarkable effort for a suburban footballer who went to Melbourne in the hope of being drafted and missed out.

Dane Rampe of the Swans, left, and Steve Coniglio of the Giants model their Sir Doug Nicholls Round jumpers at the SCG on Monday.Credit:Getty

“Absolutely”, replied Rampe when asked if he had any doubts about making it in the AFL. “A couple of knock-backs of the draft in Melbourne when I was unsuccessful, of course, those doubts creep in,” Rampe said. “But one thing I’m proud of is that when I did get an opportunity, I grabbed it with both hands.”

Swans coach John Longmire was unsure whether it was his predecessor Paul Roos or head of the Swans’ academy Chris Smith who spotted Rampe playing with his mates at Sydney University and invited him to training a decade or so ago.

“His first three-kilometre time trial was under ten minutes running alongside Alex Johnson, who was elite,” Longmire recalled. “We knew he had a similar speed and endurance profile to AJ, which was top-end. It was also apparent early that he was a massive competitor. One of the best I’ve seen.”

Rampe’s first opportunity for the Swans came when he replaced Johnson during a pre-season game after Johnson suffered the first of three serious knee injuries which eventually ended his career.

Dane Rampe at Swans training in 2013.Credit:Getty

Longmire described it as a “sliding doors moment.”

The Swans’ relatively comfortable ladder position, with six wins from nine games and a healthy percentage boosted by Saturday’s 58-point victory over the lacklustre Bombers, is a contrast to crosstown rivals the Giants, who were unable to send coach Leon Cameron off with a win after he resigned mid-season.

The Giants have just two wins from nine games, although this Sunday’s match against last-placed West Coast at the Sydney Showgrounds is an ideal opportunity to get back on the winners’ list, for a week at least.

Giants co-captain Steve Coniglio, also wearing an indigenous jumper launching Sir John Nicholls Round, admitted the players had to take much of the responsibility for the club’s current plight after playing two finals last season.

“You have to look in the mirror and come up with some of the answers,” Coniglio said.

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