The new face of Sydney football isn’t a hulking forward for the first time in two decades.
From Tony Lockett to Barry Hall, the versatile Adam Goodes, Kurt Tippett and more recently Lance Franklin, the Swans prioritised goalkicking firepower to win over the Harbour City.
But that’s about to change, with Franklin entering the final season of his nine-year megadeal as homegrown star Isaac Heeney inks a bumper six-year contract to stay at Sydney until at least 2028.
The deal, which follows his five-year extension signed in 2016, wipes one of the biggest names from this year’s AFL free agency list and provides a timely boost for the Swans only weeks out from round 1.
Heeney turns 26 in May, meaning this commitment effectively confirms him as a Sydney footballer for life.
“I’m over the moon. It’s something very special to me,” Heeney said.
“It’s a club I grew up barracking for and to most likely be a one-club player here at the Sydney Swans is extremely humbling but also extremely exciting.
“(The Swans are) known outside to be one of the strongest cultures and also the extended period of success they’ve had has been absolutely amazing.
“I’m hoping that over my six years I can continue that with them. But I think the personnel ranging from the players all the way up to the board is just absolutely amazing and so welcoming.”
Heeney, who grew up on a farm at Stockrington, between Newcastle and Maitland, represents the new possibilities for a club that once relied almost solely on recruiting from interstate.
The Swans Academy is beginning to churn out standout NSW talents, including Heeney, Callum Mills, Nick Blakey, Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden, who could form the nucleus of their next AFL flag.
Heeney said playing in Sydney’s losing grand final team in 2016 still motivated him and his “one and only goal” was to play in a premiership.
“That whole week, that whole build-up, knowing that you’ve gone through such a strong season and you’ve been through so many weeks together, through the ups and downs, and then to get to the final day is something extremely special,” he said.
“It just drives me to hopefully win one in the next six years and I feel like with our group at the moment, we can definitely do something pretty special.”
Heeney is set to supercharge his rise to full-blown AFL stardom with his transition into the midfield after kicking a career-most 36 goals as a mid-sized forward last year.
Sydney will hope the move is every bit as successful as Mills’ switch from defence into the centre a season ago, which propelled him into the 40-man All-Australian squad.
Heeney has enjoyed a largely incident-free summer, apart from contracting Covid-19 pre-Christmas, like many of the Swans, in a welcome change after injuries dented his past two seasons.
He played only six games in 2020 and his preparation for last year was severely impacted after a gruesome incident that saw him suffer an ankle dislocation, a ruptured medial ligament and torn tendons.
There was also a thumb injury and broken hand to deal with during a season that Heeney conceded he would be sore after every game.
But there was no better proof of Heeney’s ability to perform through pain than him kicking Sydney’s final four goals to almost drag the Swans across the line in last year’s elimination final defeat to the Giants.
“For me, it’s as simple as making sure we push each other on the track and achieving that ultimate success,” he said.
“It’s a bit cliche, but it’s so true and obviously, losing the 2016 grand final, it just makes you appreciate how hard it is to actually get there on the last day of September and how much I really want it.”