A pair of Sydney forwards will feature in the Swans’ leadership group for the first time, with the club keeping its existing structure intact for 2023.
Isaac Heeney and Will Hayward will join an eight-man group along, with returning former member Jake Lloyd, with 26-year-old Heeney saying he was “filled with confidence” after receiving the nod from his teammates.
An All-Australian for the first time in 2022, the spring-heeled forward said he was ready to take on more responsibility while supporting the Swans’ unchanged trio of captains – Callum Mills, Luke Parker and Dane Rampe.
“It’s given us a little bit more responsibility, but it’s also given me confidence to know that I’m valuable in the group, same with Will Hayward, with both of us jumping in for the first time,” Heeney said.
“(Leading) has always been a part of the role for myself; I guess I’m still young, but I’ve got a fair bit of experience under my belt.
“It’s all about grabbing those young fellas, bringing them along with you and teaching them the tricks of the trade, and also just allowing them to know what their strengths are and helping them play as a unique individual.”
Heeney said he had been excited by the pre-season performances of Sydney’s young brigade of midfielders and small forwards, with 2021 draft selection Matthew Roberts particularly impressing him.
“Matty Roberts – his fitness has just gone to another level, his high-speed running, sprints, he’s just so underrated in terms of how well he moves across the ground,” Heeney said.
“That’s shone this pre-season, and Gussy (Angus Sheldrick) as an inside bull has been extremely clean and tough.”
Dynamic small forward Jacob Konstanty was another of Heeney’s charges who could feature in Sydney’s side early in the season, he said.
“He’s a livewire; a little light fella but he hits hard and he’s actually trained really well over pre-season,” Heeney said.
“He’s got a little bit to work on game plan-wise but the attitude he’s got and the way he’s approached pre-season has been absolutely amazing.”
The young trio were part of the increased competition for spots at Sydney which had the players confident they could quickly shake last year’s grand final humiliation, Heeney said.
“It sucks being a coach, but at the same time it’s exactly what a coach wants and what we want as players – we want to push each other to the next level and keep those boys who are in the senior side doing everything they can to make sure they don’t get overtaken by these young fellas coming through.”
Along with the three inclusions and three skippers, Lance Franklin and Tom Papley were retained in the leadership group for 2023, with Harry Cunningham and the retired Josh Kennedy dropping out.
Franklin, who was an “incredibly valuable” part of the group, was a good chance to feature in Sydney’s practice game against Brisbane on Friday, Heeney said.
“He’s pushing for a game, he loves just getting out there to play … it’s more up to Horse (coach John Longmire) and the physios to see what sort of load they want to put through his body at this time of year,” he said.