Isaac Heeney in action during the Opening Round match between Sydney and Melbourne at the SCG on March 7, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

AS SYDNEY grapples with injuries to its three most experienced inside midfielders, the versatile Isaac Heeney appears set for an extended run on the ball.

The big question is – will he stay there?

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Sydney's first-up win over Melbourne last week was noteworthy for how its new-look onball brigade performed after an exposed weakness last year and a mini injury crisis in the off-season forced John Longmire to re-shape his line-up.

Albeit from just one game, the results were instantly positive.

Heeney (who spent 77 per cent of his time in midfield) and new recruit Brodie Grundy picked up nine coaches' votes each, while another former Demon, James Jordon, had 18 disposals and seven tackles on his Swans debut.

But with injured trio Taylor Adams, Luke Parker and Callum Mills set to return during the year, how Heeney fits into the midfield puzzle in the long term remains to be seen.

Isaac Heeney in action during the Opening Round match between Sydney and Melbourne at the SCG on March 7, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd, who has been a critic of Heeney's in the past, believes the 27-year-old has qualities as a midfielder that even Mills, Parker and Adams don't possess.

"What I like about him is he's got the explosive nature, the skill level and the decision-making poise that Taylor Adams doesn't have. And I think he's quicker than Luke Parker and I think Callum Mills is best behind the footy more so than a midfielder at times," Lloyd told Access All Areas this week.

"I would keep him in (the midfield) for at least 50 per cent of the time. He's too good a forward not to go in there (up forward).

"I've been critical of him at times and said that he hasn't stood up in the big games, but along with Grundy he was the best player on the ground (against Melbourne)."


While the selection crunch won't come until another few weeks when Adams and Parker return from injury (Mills isn't expected back until mid-year), Heeney is set to lead the young Swans mids again against Collingwood on Friday night.

"Last week we had six 23-and-under midfielders and will probably have the same again this week against another really experienced midfield group," Longmire said.

"(Heeney's) ability to help in the contest and really lead the way the game's played – win at the source and run at the source – has been important.

"Wherever the team needs him, he'll adapt and be a presence for us. We don't expect him to be the best player every week. He played his role really well last week and other weeks there will be others that need to step up."

Isaac Heeney celebrates with a fan after the Opening Round match between Sydney and Melbourne at the SCG on March 7, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Having traded for Grundy to address the shortfalls in hitouts to advantage (18th in the AFL in 2023), total hitouts (16th) and clearances (10th) last year, the two-time All-Australian wasted little time in shaking off the frustration of his past two seasons.

After the Swans averaged just seven hitouts to advantage per game last season, Grundy contributed 13 against Melbourne on Thursday night as his new club won the clearances (45-34) and broke even in contested possessions (146-145) against one of most experienced midfields in the competition.

"I just love it when clubs identify a problem and go and address it. That's what the Swans have done and we've seen what that can do in the space of one game,"'s Chief Football Correspondent Damian Barrett said on Access All Areas.


"Double the amount of hitouts to advantage. Now, that's an average number and we're basing it on one game, but he's going to be increasing that number ... this year. That's a starting point of where they did ultimately fall down last year, coming off a Grand Final the previous year.

"I love it. It was bold, it was risky given he hadn't played well, effectively, for two years. But they may well have the 2018-2019 Brodie Grundy."

Lloyd cautioned, however, that Grundy will soon face greater challenges than he did on a slippery night at the smaller SCG against Melbourne.

"He makes the Swans so much better. But the conditions (against Melbourne) suited him down to a tee," he said.

"On a faster deck at the MCG against Collingwood this week, we'll see whether or not he can continue that form."