Isaac Heeney says keeping a lid on his nerves will be key when he makes his AFL debut for Sydney on Saturday.
The 18-year-old from Newcastle has been named in the Swans’ round-one side to face Essendon at ANZ Stadium after a standout pre-season.
“It’s a bit surreal,” the beach-blond Heeney said.
“They stitched me up at first – they originally told me I wasn’t playing, they had the camera set up and everything.
“And then Kizza (co-captain Kieren Jack) cracked a smile, so from there it was all laughs.”
Heeney was pick No.18 at last year’s AFL draft, having graduated from the Swans Academy.
A round-one debut looked unlikely after suffering knee tendonitis early in the pre-season, but a solid performance in the NAB Challenge has him primed for the big league.
“I am a little nervous at the moment,” he said.
“I’ve been trying to work on it … nerves aren’t too good for me I find, but if I can settle those down I seem to do alright.
“(Coach John Longmire) is pretty good with that, and Kizza – they take all the expectation off me.”
Jack said Heeney had been impressive in his short time at the club, labelling him a fast learner and fierce competitor.
“He’s a solid boy, a big kid – a bit similar to Luke Parker when he was coming through, he had that mature body but he competes and that’s what we love about him,” Jack said.
“To push his way into an already decent side is a great testament to him.
“We have all the faith in him.”
Jack said Heeney was proof of how strong the Swans’ controversial academy was.
“Isaac was a kid who played a lot of sports as a youngster, probably had an opportunity to play rugby league but went down an AFL path,” the All-Australian midfielder said.
“It’s a competitive market in Sydney for sport, so the academy system … provides an avenue for kids and gives them a real pathway to come through the system and we’re seeing the results now.”
Jack on Thursday confirmed he was fine for Saturday’s clash after being hospitalised with an abdominal injury suffered in a pre-season hit-out.
“I’m thankful we had the following week off but I’m ready to go,” he said.