ONCE again, Isaac Heeney's season has been stopped in its tracks.
Heeney and Sydney are still investigating whether the gun forward will need surgery to repair a broken right hand, which is expected to keep the talented young Swan sidelined for around a month.
Heeney's freak injury occurred in the second quarter of last Thursday night's thrilling victory over Essendon, where he appeared to strike Bombers defender Brandon Zerk-Thatcher in an off-the-ball incident.
>>WATCH THE INCIDENT IN THE PLAYER BELOW
He immediately walked away from the scene cradling his right hand, going straight to the bench where he was substituted out of the match and later watched on with ice strapped to the injury.
It's a bitter blow for both Heeney and the unbeaten Sydney, with the 24-year-old's recurring history of early-season injury setbacks again rearing its ugly head just prior to a crucial period for the young Swans.
Heeney has missed 27 of a possible 140 games through injury, having avoided an early setback in just two of his seven seasons with the club after being recruited as a first-round Academy prospect in 2014.
But that figure will now grow following his latest hand injury, with the timing of his most recent issue all the more frustrating given it has once again occurred in the early stages of a promising campaign.
Heeney's debut season was interrupted by a 10-week PCL injury sustained in a round six victory over Melbourne in 2015, while he also missed the first four matches of his 2017 campaign with glandular fever.
Sandwiched in between, during the 2016 season, Heeney enjoyed a rare free run of football before being rested for two matches midway through the year as Sydney cruised through to the Grand Final.
In 2018, he missed one game through concussion, while in 2019 he featured in every match for the year. That was despite being forced to play through the pain barrier in the early stages, having hurt his ankle in the club's final pre-season practice match against Gold Coast.
Over the past two seasons, though, his injury luck has gotten even worse.
Heeney copped a fractured thumb upon returning to pre-season training in 2020, undergoing surgery and missing a month of action before returning to take part in round one.
However, a nasty ankle injury – which included a dislocation and ruptured medial ligaments and tendons – then ended his 2020 campaign after just six matches and also ate into his pre-season this year.
That ankle injury cost him 12 games, with his latest hand problem expected to keep him sidelined for four more in 2021. All of the niggles and frustrating setbacks are now adding up, keeping one of Sydney's brightest talents off the park once again.
Whether the 4-0 Swans can navigate a difficult month without him – they play crosstown rivals Greater Western Sydney this Saturday, before facing Gold Coast, Geelong and Melbourne – will be a difficult, albeit familiar, early-season challenge for John Longmire's side.