This was not a pretty performance by the Swans but at 0-2 you cannot afford to be picky. Sydney dominated the possession count (+109) and appeared the more fluent of the two sides but were seriously challenged by the Blues.
The hosts closed the gap to within 13 points but despite numerous entries inside their forward 50 could produce the angles to find a way through a packed Swans’ defence.
Thrown the gauntlet during the week, Heeney responded with 26 possessions and four goals, including the sealer. His strength in the air and agility on the ground proved too much for Lachie Plowman.
“He [Heeney] had a sore ankle for a couple of weeks which gets lost in the mix,” Swans coach John Longmire said. “He had the mix we like of midfield forward, taking marks either end, going forward, putting pressure on. His ability and courage overhead is outstanding.”
Moved into the middle, Zak Jones gave his team the spark they needed while Jake Lloyd and Jarrad McVeigh provided the run from defence.
“[Jones] was terrific. His speed around the ball, has a good balance of hard ball, loose ball and was damaging with ball in hand,” Longmire said.
Lance Franklin kicked two goals, both in the first half, in an entertaining duel with Liam Jones, who won the contest on points.
The Blues provided another glimpse of the future but couldn’t produce a four-quarter performance. Until they do, coach Brendon Bolton will be forced to address more gallant losses.
Boom youngster Sam Walsh played a game beyond his years, starring with 28 possessions while Patrick Cripps was instrumental in the Blues’ late run.
Both sides are not known for their high scoring but they produced a fast-paced shootout which would not have pleased either coach.
Highlights were aplenty, from Ed Curnow’s snaps, one on each foot, Heeney’s checkside effort from the boundary, as well as Josh Kennedy and Marc Murphy’s shark and goal.
Amid the goalfest a trend was slowly emerging, though it would not be until midway in the second term when it would have an impact on the scoreboard.
The Swans’ lack of speed leaves them vulnerable once the ball breaks clear, particularly against the top teams, but they controlled the play throughout, leaving the Blues to react.
The possession count was lopsided, almost two to one in Sydney’s favour for uncontested ball. No surprise then that the game was being played predominantly in their forward half.
The Swans’ method resembled that of a cricket fast bowler – put enough balls in the right spot and the results will come. To the Blues’ credit they did not collapse but nor were the able to create any forward pressure.
They were marooned on six goals for nearly 40 minutes, though it must have seemed like an eternity to Blues fans. So tight was Sydney’s all-ground defence, the Blues’ runners could not find, or create, any holes.
Jones’ speed in the midfield was opening up the Blues, so too the thoughtful play off half-back by McVeigh and Lloyd, while Tom Papley’s ability to break free on the goal-side of a contest would not have pleased Bolton.
A passage of play in the third term summed up the two sides. Carlton’s Harry McKay pinched a couple of yards on Sydney defender Aliir Aliir but instead of delivering a kick Michael Gibbons could run onto he sat it on his teammates’ head, which allowed his opponent to mark easily. From the rebound, Jones found space forward of centre and lobbed a pass in Franklin’s favour.
The Swans had Carlton on the rack when Heeney curled one around his body but they could not put last year’s wooden-spooner away. Papley, Franklin, Jones and Nick Blakey all squandered opportunities. Back to back goals nearing the three-quarter time siren to Curnow and McKay left the door ajar.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald