Sydney Swans hope Isaac Heeney will spark turnaround in derby

BACK: Isaac Heeney chase down a ball for Sydney in last year's losing grand final to Western Bulldogs. Picture: Graham Denholm
BACK: Isaac Heeney chase down a ball for Sydney in last year's losing grand final to Western Bulldogs. Picture: Graham Denholm

COACH John Longmire believes Hunter product Isaac Heeney can make an impact for the struggling Swans in his long-awaited AFL return against Greater Western Sydney on Saturday at the SCG.

Heeney, a former Cardiff Hawk and Maitland schoolboy, has missed the first month of the season because of glandular fever and in his absence, Sydney have slumped to 0-4.

Longmire was excited to welcome back Heeney and Gary Rohan for the clash with GWS.

“They have had a couple of weeks of really strong training now, including a really strong hit-out on the weekend and they pulled up well,” Longmire said.

“They have just been getting better every session so they have done enough work now to warrant selection.

“We think that both of those players have the ability to be able to have an impact this week to help us be as competitive as we can be this week.”

Greater Western Sydney are unlikely to be claiming they are the harbour city's best AFL team, even if they score their first SCG win over the Swans and deal their rivals a potentially season-smashing loss.

For the first time in 12 Sydney derbies, the Giants will start favourites in Saturday's game. After Sydney had dominated the early years of their growing rivalry, the pendulum has started to swing westward.

The Giants are 12 points clear of Sydney, who they have convincingly beaten in their past two games and they no longer have a massive disadvantage in experience as in their first few years.

Sydney will field seven first or second-year players at the SCG, while the Giants will have just one.

A Swans loss would send last year's minor premiers and losing grand finalists tumbling to 0-5 – a mark that invariably spells doom for a team's finals aspirations.

Giants forward Devon Smith said that prospect wouldn't be an additional motivating factor for his side.

"They've got the credit in the bank and obviously a great contested side," Smith said.

"Any team with Buddy [Lance Franklin] in it, they are going to be dangerous so I've got full respect for them.

"I still think they are the best in the comp at contested footy and we match that tomorrow and we should win."

One key match-up will be in-form Giants key defender Phil Davis up against Franklin, who needs just three goals to reach the 800 mark.

Despite their season seemingly on the precipice, Sydney remain confident they can regain form.

"We haven't lost confidence at all in the standard of football that we can play," Swans vice-captain and midfielder Luke Parker said.

"We've been a good team for a number of seasons and you don't just lose that in a month of football, so I have full faith that we've got the right team to be able to bounce back and get our season back on track."

Sydney also welcome back ruckman-forward Kurt Tippett. The Giants also get a significant dose of X-factor and experience back with the return of veteran forward Steve Johnson. 

                                        – with AAP