LANCE Franklin will join a new-look Sydney forward line that won't have to rely on the superstar as much as it has, but will enjoy the faster ball movement the Swans have embraced, according to Isaac Heeney.
A lot has changed at Sydney in the 581 days it will be since Franklin's last match – in round 23, 2019, also his 300th game – and his long-awaited comeback on Saturday against Adelaide at the SCG.
A forward line that struggled for marking targets in 2020, with Franklin sidelined for the entire season with hamstring and groin issues, key forward Sam Reid restricted to 10 matches, and Heeney missing after round six, is suddenly blessed with options.
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As well as having Franklin, Reid and Heeney available, 2020 draftee Logan McDonald made it almost-impossible for the Swans to leave him out, with an outstanding debut game against Brisbane.
"We have been Buddy-focused in previous years," said Heeney.
"But we've got a good, widespread group of players that have been hitting the scoreboard, so if we can continue to do that, we don't have to use Buddy every inside 50.
"That'll offer up different avenues to goal, and more challenges for the opposition."
The game has changed a bit since Franklin last played, with innovations like the new 'man on the mark' rule opening the game up, but Heeney expects it to suit the key forward.
The Swans have also started to play a faster, more open brand of footy from the one they became known for in the years before and after Franklin joined the club.
"As a forward group we love it coming in quick," said Heeney.
"Obviously the defenders can't set up quickly, so the quicker it comes in the more opportunity we have to get our hands on it and kick a goal."
Heeney is confident Franklin will be ready and focused for the game against Adelaide, even after his wife Jesinta gave birth to their second child, and first son, this week.
"It has been a busy couple of days for him. He's over the moon," said Heeney.
"He’ll definitely have the energy, he'll be up and about no matter what.
"He brings excitement, the experience within that forward group, which is a really young forward group. And hopefully he can hit the scoreboard like he always does."
The 24-year-old Heeney is suddenly among the older and more experienced Swans, having played 109 games, but admitted to more pre-game nerves than usual against the Lions after coming back from a gruesome right ankle injury.
Heeney and the Swans' fitness staff expected him to ease his way into the season, but he burst back onto the scene with three goals and four assists, from 13 touches and eight marks.
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"It was nearly 10 months out of the game, so to slip back in to play, and kick a few goals in a really good win was exciting.
"[I was] trying not to think about my ankle, just play the game and hopefully pull up well from it.
"So to have a bit of an impact, kick a few goals and get through really well, and be able to train today, is a lot further ahead of where I thought I'd be at this time of year.
"I think this week I'll be able to not think about it and just play my game."