ABOUT a month ago, Isaac Heeney officially joined the Sydney Swans as an academy player. It had been a long time in the making.
Heeney joined the Sydney Swans academy as a 12-year-old in Newcastle, where he grew up around soccer and rugby league clubs.
Recognising him as a future talent, at the end of last year the Swans relocated Heeney closer to the club in Sydney, where he spent this season with a host family.
As debate raged through the year about the academy system and the priority access afforded to the northern-based clubs, Heeney simply went about his business to produce an excellent season.
The midfielder was awarded the Harrison Medal as the best player in division two of the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, and continued in the same vein of form for the Sydney Swans' NEAFL side.
Heeney missed the NAB AFL Draft Combine with minor knee tendinitis, but days later joined the Swans as an academy player after they matched a first-round bid for him.
Can he get the ball? Yep, he averaged 27 disposals in the TAC Cup with the Rams. Does he win it? Yep, nearly 60 per cent of those were contested.
Can he mark it? He's tough and strong in the air and has an impressive leap.
What's his attitude like? As one recruiter put it, "he's a ripper", a player who likes the rough and tumble of a midfield role. When he doesn't have the ball he's doing everything to get it, averaging eight tackles across four TAC Cup games. It's a competitive instinct hard to find.
Will he handle the step up? Well, he already has. In six games for the Swans' reserves side, Heeney averaged 18 disposals against senior company.
Heeney is elite around the contest – smart, physical, aggressive but astute – and he combines that with great running, spread and effectiveness. It's a good package.
A year ago, if there was anything to pick out it might have been Heeney's kicking. There was no real problem there, but Heeney recognised it as an area he could sharpen so went away and improved it.
There's very little to be concerned about with the 18-year-old, who at 185cm and 82kg fits the mould of the best modern midfielders.
Although he runs a 2.95-second 20-metre sprint, Heeney doesn't have the absolute breakaway speed that makes Greater Western Sydney's Adam Treloar such a damaging player.
Heeney does, however, carry some similarities to the emerging Giants star, particularly in the way he plays as both an inside and outside midfielder who wins his own touches and can then bolt off.
Pick 18. He's locked in at the Swans.
Melbourne, who placed a bid on Heeney with its No.2 pick, did so for a reason. He's a standout, and a player every club would love to have on their list. Fortunately for the Swans, he's theirs. Expect him to have an immediate impact next year, even in the Swans' formidable line-up.