There comes a time when a master is finally challenged by his apprentice – and for Shane Mumford that moment will come on Saturday.
After being teammates for four years, Mumford and Mike Pyke are accustomed to locking horns, but this time they will be playing for keeps.
It is a scenario neither player would have foreseen last year when they formed one of the most powerful ruck combinations in the league, but the arrival of Lance Franklin in Sydney brought that partnership to an abrupt end.
As the shock over Franklin’s extraordinary contract turned to outrage among non-Swans supporters, the fact it meant the club had to let go a popular premiership hero was largely overlooked.
When Mumford gave his first interview, to Fairfax Media, as a Giant last October, he had not yet comprehended that he had played his final game in the red and the white, even though he knew the implications of Franklin’s defection.
Reality dawned on him a few days later when he cleaned out his No.41 locker at the SCG.
“That was the moment when it really sunk in that I wasn’t going to be around there anymore,” said Mumford, who signed a three-year contract with the Giants believed to be worth around $650,000 a season – nearly double his previous salary.
“It was a bit weird taking out all the stuff that had been sitting around for a few years, I ended up throwing a lot of stuff out because I had shit everywhere. It was a sad moment.”
So too was bidding farewell to the club staff whom he knew he would rarely see now that the common bond of being a Swan was no longer there . However, the 2012 flag means he will forever be in touch with his premiership teammates.
He still keeps in touch with Dan Hannebery and Dane Rampe, though those friendships will be put on hold until after the fifth edition of the Sydney derby – and Mumford’s first home and away game against his former club.
Mumford does not feel as if he has a point to prove to the Swans coaching staff, but admits wanting to show them what they’re missing.
It should come as no surprise that the boy from Bunyip had the measure of the Canadian-born Pyke early at the Swans, but Mumford says it was “definitely 50-50 by the end” against a man who last year was extremely unlucky not to make the shortlist for the All-Australian team.
“He uses his body really well now which is something he had to learn coming from rugby where he’d never played as a ruck whereas most guys have done it their whole lives,” Mumford said.
“The amount of improvement in him the last few years is a real credit to him. I don’t think we had a No.1 in the end.”
The tag of first-choice ruck does not sit well with Pyke.
“I don’t like that term, never have. There have been times along the way that term has been bandied around and to be perfectly frank, I don’t think that always sits true,” Pyke said.
Pyke recalls their training sessions together as hard, though Mumford said the need to preserve each other for the weekend ensured the boundaries were not pushed.
“You never want to go too silly when you’re at training because if you hurt your teammate you end up costing the side,” Mumford said. “We never went 100 per cent but if he got beaten a couple of times he’d step it up a few notches so he wouldn’t be beaten again. It got a bit competitive between he two of us.
“It’ll be a massive contest between the two of us. He’s really stepped up the last two years and become a quality ruckman in the competition. I’ll have my work cut out for me.”