Sydney defender Tom McCartin has made a strong return to football through the VFL, being among the Swans' best performers on Saturday morning to press his case for a return to the senior side.

McCartin hasn't played under John Longmire since Round 8, having battled with concussion symptoms that stemmed from a head knock sustained in April against Port Adelaide.

That match saw McCartin's brother Paddy also suffer a concussion that added to the former No.1 pick's extensive history of head trauma, with Sydney eventually deciding to move the forward-turned-defender to their inactive list for the remainder of 2023.

The younger McCartin was placed on a cautious recovery program given the ongoing concerns with his own health, with the Swans easing the 23-year-old through rehabilitation in the past two months to be cleared for a return to the field this weekend.

The key defender played out a full game against Collingwood's VFL outfit at Olympic Park on Saturday and would end the match as arguably Sydney's best with 24 disposals and a team-high seven marks in the 23-point loss.

The outing is sure to give both McCartin and the Swans the needed confidence to potentially bring the 193cm backman back into Longmire's plans for the club's Round 16 meeting with Geelong at the SCG.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 29: Tom McCartin of the Swans looks on during the round seven AFL match between Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney Giants at Sydney Cricket Ground, on April 29, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Sydney has struggled to find consistency this year given their multitude of injured stars, however, the club has managed to regain trio Callum Mills, Isaac Heeney and Logan McDonald for this weekend's meeting with West Coast.

A potential return for McCartin would go a long way for the Swans' hopes of steering themselves back into finals contention, with next week's grand final rematch staged as a critical encounter for the Bloods.

Adding to McCartin's efforts in the VFL, dropped duo Dylan Stephens and Jack Buller both responded to their respective omissions for Round 16 with strong performances against the Magpies.

Stephens led the way among Sydney's ball winners with 27 disposals to go along with five clearances and four tackles, while Buller booted three goals to bring his tally to eight majors from his two games in the red and white.

Buller's fellow Mid-Season Draft arrival Harrison Arnold and key defender Will Gould stood tall throughout the game in working alongside McCartin to also send a reminder to Longmire and Sydney's selection committee.

The Swans face West Coast at the SCG on Saturday afternoon before hosting Geelong at the same venue next Friday night. Sydney's VFL side is still in pursuit of its second win of the season and will clash with the Cats' reserves as a curtain-raiser to the corresponding AFL match in six days' time.