A brutal review after an unexpected loss to AFL battlers Essendon in round 16 has proved a key ingredient in Sydney’s push towards a premiership tilt the young group always thought was within their grasp.
The Swans went down to the Bombers by nine points in July and a harsh assessment from the coaching staff garnered an admission from some senior players that they didn’t deliver the effort required.
It was enough to spark the Swans into an unbeaten seven-match run to finish the regular season. It netted Sydney a top-four finish and a finals double-chance that many pundits didn’t see coming.
But Sydney superstar Isaac Heeney, who said he was having his most enjoyable season since the Swans’ run to the 2016 grand final, was adamant the players always thought they could do some “serious damage” in 2022.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise, as a group there has always been that belief,” he said on Wednesday as preparations continue for next week’s qualifying final against reigning premiers Melbourne.
“We knew as a group it would come, once we started to click and we got things right we’d be able to do some serious damage.”
But it took a reminder, after the loss to the Bombers and one two weeks prior to Port Adelaide who were also struggling, to reinforce what was required from the senior players to get the best out of themselves.
Heeney said the club’s leaders put it on each other to bring a stronger effort, and the Swans haven’t looked back.
“We weren’t happy with the style we played, it was more the effort, not the game plan and execution,” Heeney said on RSN of the loss to Essendon
“A lot of it came from the leaders and our more experienced players and as a young kid you don’t want to see that and as a club we don’t want to be seen as that.
“From then on, the last six weeks have been really pleasing with the effort.
“You could say the review was brutal, but at the same time the boys accepted it and we don’t want to stand for that and it’s been proven we haven’t since.”
Heeney said a “good run” without injuries had help propel him to one of his best seasons for Sydney, having booted 46 goals, just four behind superstar teammate Lance Franklin at the Swans.
“It was nice to have a good run of it without these niggling injuries, like hand surgery I had last year,” he said.
“It’s nice this year has married up pretty well and my body feels great going into the finals, and it’s probably the most enjoyable year, outside of 2016, I have had at the club.”