SWANS coach John Longmire told Hunter junior Isaac Heeney just to enjoy his debut and ‘‘soak it all up’’ on Saturday against Essendon at ANZ Stadium.
And as Heeney had Easter Sunday lunch with his parents Adam and Rochelle in Sydney, the 18-year-old from Black Hill was still absorbing a remarkable first taste of senior AFL football.
Heeney kicked the match-sealing goal against the Bombers with just under two minutes remaining to cap an amazing comeback from Sydney in wet and windy conditions.
Down 41 points late in the third term, the Swans kicked eight unanswered goals to win the season opener 10.12 (72) to 9.6 (60).
Heeney’s left-foot snap to kick his first AFL goal and all but secure victory for Sydney topped off an impressive debut for the Cardiff Hawks junior, who had three marks, 17 disposals and made seven tackles to confirm his status as a future star of the 2013 premiers.
‘‘It was an incredible debut,’’ Heeney told the Newcastle Herald on Sunday. ‘‘It was a fairytale and a dream come true.’’
Heeney admitted that nerves played a part when he booted two behinds and kicked a shot at goal out of bounds before the late heroics but said it was ‘‘pretty amazing’’ to kick the crucial goal.
‘‘The nerves were all right, I knew if I had the footy all I needed to do was get a point to put us two kicks ahead,’’ said Heeney, who was soaked in the centre of the team circle when they sang the club song.
‘‘But to kick it through was amazing, with all the boys getting around you. It was incredible.
‘‘It was amazing in the sheds after it. It was the best experience in my football career so far. It was unreal.’’
The former All Saints College, Maitland, student said the advice from Longmire and his teammates before the game held him in good stead.
‘‘Being my first game, Horse [Longmire] sort of threw all the expectation off me,’’ he said.
‘‘He said just go out there and enjoy yourself, soak it all up and just play your normal game, because we back you in, and you know you can play good footy when you’re relaxed and you believe in yourself, so I just went out there to have a lot of fun and soak it all up.’’
Longmire was more than happy with Heeney’s debut effort.
‘‘He was good,’’ Longmire said after the match.
‘‘He’s pretty hard, he’s clean – handy goal at the end, so he’s experienced all the emotions I guess that happen during the course of the game.
‘‘But he competes, he runs hard. He’s flexible, he can go forward, back or mid, so he got a good taste of what AFL footy’s like tonight.’’
Heeney is the fourth Hunter product to play for the Swans, following Warners Bay’s Terry Thripp and Nelson Bay duo Troy Luff and Craig Bird.
He is the first player from Newcastle to reach the AFL since John Preen, who played for Geelong in the 1970s.
Longmire admitted Sydney were lucky to break a mentally tough Essendon.
Lance Franklin broke the deadlock with just minutes to spare before Heeney sealed the victory in front of a rapturous 23,774 fans.
It was a down end to a good news week for the Bombers after 34 current and former players were cleared by the league’s anti-doping tribunal of taking banned substances.
Coach James Hird didn’t know if his men could last the distance, given 13 of them hadn’t played a single pre-season match while serving provisional suspensions.
In the end, more than two hours of footy and a fitter Swans outfit proved too much.
The Bombers appeared to have the Swans in a headlock early on, slotting four goals to none in the first term for a 26-point lead.
The one-way traffic continued into the second term, with the Swans unable to boot their first major until 18 minutes in through Bird.
But Franklin’s goal six minutes into the final term sparked the comeback.