Recruit Kade Kolodjashnij was ruled out having shown concussion symptoms early in the week after an elbow to the head against the Bombers. That he had concussion issues when with the Gold Coast Suns meant there was even more reason why the Demons have allowed him to rest.
Alex Neal-Bullen was dropped and has been replaced by Billy Stretch, who had a minutes restriction in the VFL in a sign he, too, was in the frame for a senior call up. Stretch managed only two senior matches last year, the last in round 16.
Preuss was traded from the Kangaroos in exchange for Dom Tyson and pick No.62 in last year’s national draft, having not played a senior game in 2018.
There was debate through the pre-season whether Preuss and Gawn could co-exist in the same team but the Demons hope they can stretch their opponents.
They flew a squad of 25 to Sydney where they hope to turn around a season spiralling out of control.
The Swans were forced to make two changes, replacing the injured Jarrad McVeigh and Will Hayward with former skipper Kieren Jack and debutant Justin McInerney, the latter taken with pick No.44 in last year’s national draft. The hard-running McInerney is a product of Marcellin College and the Northern Knights.
The football world had the Demons as a premiership threat before the season began but three rounds in and they are fighting to remain in contention for the finals.
Defeats to Port Adelaide, Geelong and Essendon have the Demons under enormous pressure, and they now face a Sydney side buoyed from their first win of the season.
The Demons have not won at the SCG since 2006 but they have had only three games there since – in 2007, 2012 and 2016.
Coach Simon Goodwin has vowed team defence will be the key to a breakthrough victory.
Conceding a league-high 114 points per game, they have been the easiest side to score against once the ball is inside their defensive 50, with opponents scoring 52 per cent of the time. The Demons had been ranked ninth in this area last year, on their way to a preliminary final berth.
Co-captain Jack Viney said his side needs to communicate better on the field, for the Demons looked lost in defensive transition, at times, against the Bombers.
The focus has been on key defenders Sam Frost and Oscar McDonald, with the absence of Steven May and Jake Lever hurting.
However, Goodwin said team defence was the key to stopping the Swans, with forwards and midfielders expected to run to both ends of the ground.
“There’s a lot of theories about whose fault it is. Is it the backs? Is it the mids? Is it the forwards? But we’re all in this together and we’re all going to get our way out of it,” he said.
The Demons also need leaders Nathan Jones and Viney to step up, while the focus on Christian Petracca, averaging 15 touches, also remains great.
Jon Pierik is a sports writer with The Age, focusing primarily on AFL football, cricket and basketball. He has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.