Isaac Heeney 2024 pre-season: Forward looking to step up

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Isaac Heeney is ready to fill the leadership void in the Sydney Swans’ forward line as he prepares for a more hybrid role in 2024.

Following Lance Franklin’s retirement, Heeney is the second-most experienced forward in the Swans’ side behind the returning Sam Reid.

With a potential 200-game milestone looming this year, Heeney is determined to lead from the front as the Swans look to go even deeper in September.

“It’s been different that we’ve missed [Buddy], we miss him being around,” Heeney said. “He’s in a new chapter now and I guess we’re in a new chapter as well.

“A lot of the focus has shifted off him and has been shared throughout the team which has been nice.

“We’ve got Paps [Papley] in there as well that leads the forward line as well. But absolutely [I want to be a leader] if I can push the forward group, but also the team as a whole.

“It doesn’t matter what position you play, I think I’ll try and push as many boys as I can to be the best they can.

“We’ve got a really strong young group and we’ve recruited a few experienced players as well which has been nice, but just keep bringing them along, keep leading them and see how far we can go.”

Heeney knows part of that responsibility is extra focus on his individual performance. After making the 2022 all-Australian side, Heeney’s form plateaued last season and by his own admission, his goalkicking was below par.

In a team that will be searching for a new source of goals, he has dedicated more time to finding that spark again.

“I’ve never had I guess if you want to call it the yips,” Heeney said.

“I don’t look at it as the yips, but you look at the difficulty of certain goals as well, they can add up.

“But I’ve nut into that in the off-season to make sure I make the most of the opportunities and I’ve done that and I’m excited to see how we go throughout the year.”

And while working on his forward craft has been a focus this pre-season, Heeney has balanced that work by spending more time in the midfield.

Pushing up towards the stoppages has been a tactic often employed by John Longmire to get the best out of Heeney. And the 27-year-old agrees that he plays his best footy when he can influence up the ground.

“I want to play in a position that Horse needs me most for the team,” Heeney said. “And kick a bit more accurately than last year, that’d be nice.

“I’m feeling really fit and the body’s holding out really well at the moment.

“I’ve done a little bit of training in the midfield throughout pre-season. I think it ultimately comes down to personnel and where Horse needs me the most.

“If we need people to kick goals, hopefully, I can go up there and do the job. If you need a bit of grunt in the midfield, I’ll try and jump in there as well.

“I’m trying to train as much of both positions as I can and I believe a good mix for myself is when I play my best footy.”

Originally published as Isaac Heeney looking to step into leadership void as Swans face life without Buddy Franklin

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