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O'Keefe warns Swans to be wary of North

By Greg Buckle 04/07/2009 09:50:57 AM Comments (0)

Sydney's bid for a seventh consecutive finals campaign is fading fast but midfielder Ryan O'Keefe hasn't given up hope despite the Swans diving to 11th on the AFL ladder.

A home game at the SCG on Sunday against 13th-placed North Melbourne should be just the tonic to help the Swans get back on track after only five wins in the first 13 rounds.

However, while remaining positive about Sydney's chances of a late-season surge, O'Keefe has warned the Swans to respect North's fighting qualities under caretaker coach Darren Crocker.

Crocker coached the Kangaroos for the first time last week following Dean Laidley's resignation and produced an encouraging performance, with North going down by 22 points to third-placed Western Bulldogs.

"A win on the weekend will be very crucial for us and it still keeps us in the pack there. It's definitely a big game for us," O'Keefe told AAP.

O'Keefe compared North's new style of play under Crocker to the optimistic mood in the Swans camp in mid-2002 when Paul Roos took over as caretaker coach for the last 10 games.

Sydney won six matches and Roos was handed the job full-time for 2003.

"North look like they're playing with a bit of freedom and spirit and joy. They're going to just go out there and give it their best," O'Keefe said.

"You play with that bit more freedom, that enjoyment.

"After you've been under one regime and you come under another one, it's like a fresh start.

"It gives a lot of guys the chance to go out there and just do what they've been doing as kids, go out there and enjoy your footy.

"Sometimes that's how you play your best footy, when you're enjoying it.

"It was a big change really (in mid-2002). Roosy took over and a lot of players who were in that transition period really blossomed under him and enjoyed their footy and took some steps forward.

"It gives you that confidence that you know you can play some good footy.

"Sport's a funny thing. It's all confidence really.

"When you get that confidence built in you, maybe things can happen."

O'Keefe, who has kicked 185 goals in 177 games, says he has been "re-energised" by a midfield role.

The Victorian left-footer gathered 41 possessions in a losing side against Collingwood two weeks ago.

"I have had a different role in the last couple of months which I have really enjoyed," the 2006 All-Australian half-forward said.

"I'm playing through the midfield, a bit more permanent in the midfield and not having to play deep forward and not having to rely on kicking goals all the time.

"I've played that forward role for a number of years now and I just needed a bit of a change.

"Don't get me wrong, I love to kick a goal. But it's just to have a different role and probably a different focus going into the game, it has been great."

The Swans have named the 188cm O'Keefe at centre half-forward in place of suspended bad boy Barry Hall, but the 28-year-old is expecting to spend plenty of time in midfield.

The veteran of 14 finals says Ed Barlow and teenager Patrick Veszpremi are candidates for key forward roles on Sunday.

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