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Mike Pyke: the great Canadian experiment

Roar Rookie
15th April, 2013
15
1489 Reads

This Friday night when the Sydney Swans take on Geelong, the greatest Canadian to play the game will play his 50th match.

Pyke of course is the only Canadian to play AFL, but Pyke and being great are not exactly strange bedfellows.

I may be a one eyed Swans supporter, but I think it is not too hard to argue on current form Pyke is one of the best ruckman in the competition.

If you doubt his standing for a second I urge you to rewatch the 2012 grand final. Injury curbed the number one ruckman Shane Mumford, who eventually subbed out early in the last term.

Pyke responded by rucking solo in that final close tense term. He finished with the game 16 possessions, 6 marks and a massive 29 hit outs.

His innovative soccer kick off the ground to hit Lewis Jetta late in the game will always stay with Swans fans, this stellar performance was not a shock to anyone who follows him closely, yet pre game many an expert speculated rain my seem him dropped from the game.

Mike made his debut in Round 2009 against Richmond. I had seen him go alright in the NAB cup but to be brutally honest I wondered what the hell Paul Roos was thinking.

Pyke had moved over from Canada after being recommended to the Swans by Michael Quinlan and being taken pick 57 in the rookie draft.

Pyke had been playing rugby at US Montauban. There is famous footage of Pyke representing Canada against the All Blacks, intercepting a pass from Dan Carter and running the ground for a try.

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A story at the time reported his mother was not surprised he was moving to the other side of the world, but she had presumed he was going to play one of the two types of rugby in Australia.

Pyke went on to play eight games in his first year in the second ruck role. He didn’t get much of the ball, but he had great endurance and competed hard in the ruck. Many were not convinced, Brian Taylor famously said he couldn’t play, but Pyke would eventually make this statement look foolish.

He won the most improved at the club in 2010 playing 18 games for the year. He had become an excellent tap ruckman, still didn’t get much of the ball, but his work ethic stood out.

Round 14 2010 was a fun day for Swans fan as Pyke kicked his first goal. 2011 was a write off due to injury and he started 2012 behind Shane Mumford and Mark Seaby.

By the end of 2012 Pyke would be a permanent fixture in the premiership side. He was often leading the ruck with Mumford dealing with injury.

While Pyke had always worked hard around the ground and been competitive at the ruck contest, 2012 showed Pyke could be a number one ruckman in an AFL side.

He has doubled his possessions per game, he kicks more than he used to, he takes strong contested marks and he quite often gets more than 20 hitouts.

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The biggest improvement has come from his ability to hit the scoreboard, he has chipped in with 12 goals in the last season and a bit after only five in his first three years.

More importantly his improvement gives the Swans a deadly ruck duo, on current form the Mumford-Pyke combination is one of the league’s best.

From an unlikely position as a rugby player on the other side of the world, Mike Pyke has become a great player in the AFL.

Through hard work, time and effort he has taken himself from a bit second ruckman to one of the best in the game.

Mike recently became a father to his first son, now Swans fans are hoping he plays 50 more so we can draft his boy as a father son selection.

It has been a pleasure to watch Mike Pyke develop and grow, as a Swans fan I thank him for all he has done for this club and wish him all the best on the weekend.