Papley proud of mate's first AFL milestone

Will Hayward has kicked 61 goals in 49 AFL games for the Sydney Swans. (AAP)

Will Hayward, one of many fresh faces in Sydney's youngest team under coach John Longmire, will play his 50th AFL match when the Swans host Gold Coast.

Sometimes teammates feel like Tom Papley and Will Hayward are speaking another language, so close is the bond they've formed at AFL club Sydney.

Papley and Hayward, aged 22 and 20 respectively, are at the forefront of the Swans' youth-fuelled push for an unlikely finals spot that will continue when they host Gold Coast on Saturday.

Papley is in the box seat to finish Sydney's leading goal-kicker in 2019, an award that Lance Franklin has owned since his first season with the club in 2014.

Only 10 players in VFL/AFL history have kicked 50 goals at a younger age than Hayward, who this weekend will celebrate his 50th match.

The forwards, part of the youngest team the Swans have fielded since 1997, will be tested in the absence of hamstrung superstar Franklin at the SCG but in their favour is a mutual understanding that only the closest friends have.

The pair have been inseparable since Hayward was drafted as a "very, very skinny kid from Adelaide" in 2016, a year after Papley cut short his plumbing apprenticeship in Victoria to join the Swans.

"Sometimes you just click with someone. We've got a lot of things in common," Papley said.

"When it's time to be serious we can switch on but we do like to muck around a bit.

"We've got this ongoing thing now where we talk to each other really, really quickly ... it is almost like a different language.

"It's pretty funny. We both find it pretty funny at least. It's probably an inside joke, none of the other boys get it. They look at us like we're morons."

Papley described Hayward as the coach's pet in 2016, an unwanted tag that stuck the more the latter insisted it was wrong.

The in-form small forward opted against stitching up the milestone mate he's now dubbed 'the second beak', preferring to praise Hayward for showing leadership at such a young age.

"He voices his opinion in meetings and he's confident in what he says, which is good," Papley said.

"We always tell each other where to go on the field, how to set up.

"He's a very underrated player. He's had a few frustrating injuries this year ... but he brings really good energy with his explosive pace and goals."

Papley is confident Franklin's month on the sidelines won't stop his team's recent purple patch, which includes four wins and competitive losses to premiership contenders Geelong and Collingwood.

Suns coach Stuart Dew noted the Swans were a far less predictable side without Franklin.

"It's a little bit harder to prepare actually," Dew said.

Source AAP

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