“They are leaders and they are some of the AFL’s greats, purely because they can turn it around,” Heeney told the Herald after the loss.
“If they have a quiet one, you can pretty much guarantee they will put their hand up and they will step up.”
A remarkable comeback looked on the cards when the Swans closed to within a goal late in the final term, but they ran out of time and eventually fell 17 points short when the Bulldogs sealed the game with two goals.
Having entered the season under a fitness cloud after being hampered by a groin injury during the pre-season, Franklin looked underdone.
The Swans had just 17 inside-50s in the first half, meaning Franklin was starved of opportunities.
But he had minimal impact on the match until late in the match, and appeared frustrated when seated on the bench.
“We knew that coming in. We knew he’d be time limited,” coach John Longmire said. “We decided to make that decision and put him in the team. We need to get playing. He certainly trained more than what he trained last year but hopefully he can get going in regards to the training program.
“We go into a six-day break next week, if he’s able to get through that he should be able to improve his minutes played.”
Heeney identified his team’s “slow start” and failure to perform basic skills as the reasons underpinning the loss, leaving plenty to work on during the six-day turnaround ahead of the vital clash with Adelaide.
“Simple marks, simple kicks, turnovers. They’re obviously a quality side and move it fast by hand and are a quick side so they punished us, especially early,” he said.
Rebounding defender Jake Lloyd, one of his side’s best with 35 touches, bemoaned the Bulldogs’ ability to get on top in the midfield.
“Their midfielders were able to get a lot of numbers around the footy. They were flicking it round, just their spread from the contest was a lot better than ours and that’s what hurt us,” Lloyd said.
The Swans looked flat and lethargic for much of the first half, managing just a solitary goal.
That major came via the boot of Heeney following a spectacular mark inside the forward 50.
Fresh from collecting mark of the year last season for his towering grab against Melbourne at the MCG, Heeney said he was happy with the mark but wasn’t sure how it compared to last year’s.
“It’s a bit hard to tell in the moment. I tried looking up at the board but I didn’t quite see it,” he said. “Not a bad way to way to get my first touch for the season.”
Despite coming in to the match as warm favourites, Heeney denied the Swans had underestimated the Bulldogs.
“You can’t underestimate any team in this day, so not at all,” he said. “We knew exactly what they were going to bring and we didn’t match it with them.”
Josh Dye is a news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.