Isaac Heeney and Nick Blakey may have graduated from the QBE Sydney Swans Academy four years apart but the star duo share common ground in saying the the program taught them invaluable lessons on how to be a professional athlete away from the field. 

Heeney was one of the most sought-after prospects of the 2014 National Draft, with the Swans matching an early bid to secure him at pick #18  - such was his unwavering potential. 

The same goes for Blakey, who was selected at pick #10 of the 2018 National Draft, and the versatile defender credits the professional environment of the QBE Sydney Swans Academy as a major factor in building him into the player he is today. 

"There have been many different roles that the Academy has played - growing up and joining the Academy as a 10/11 year old - you're there to muck around, make some friends and have a kick," he said.

"But I suppose as you get older and you go deeper into the Academy, that's when more of the professional environments start - they call it the elite top-end Academy so to be involved in that and learn all of the same stuff that the senior boys go through in that professional environment.

"There's elite training standards and all of the stuff that help set you up when you are available to be drafted. There's a whole heap of different things that the Academy does, but to be ready once you are drafted is probably the biggest one."

Blakey also praised the impact the Academy coaches have had on his professional development, with the likes of 2005 premiership winners Nick Davis and Jared Crouch at the helm and passing on their knowledge to those in the program. 

It's helped the 21-year-old transition into a key member of the Swans senior squad, and 2021 saw his versatility come to the fore as he produced some starring performances off halfback. 

Blakey's ability to play with confidence allowed him to thrive and adapt accordingly, and he played a key role in a string of victories for the Bloods before his season was cruelly cut short due to injury.

"There's been lots of stuff that I suppose you learn on the field and off the field at the Academy. There's lots of good people at the Academy like Smithy (Chris Smith - Head of the Sydney Swans Academy), Davo (Nick Davis - Youth Development Coach), and Crouchy (Jared Crouch - Academy Head Coach) who was my coach in Under 18s.

"They're coaches and we're the players but to see how they go about coaching us - when we're not performing our best or when we are, (observing) the things they do to keep us at our best or get us back there and to learn from those people when we're striving to do what they did makes it easy to listen to."

04:08 Mins
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QBE Swans Academy Series: To my younger self

Isaac Heeney and Nick Blakey may have been drafted years apart, but they share common ground when speaking of the profound impact the QBE Sydney Swans Academy had on their careers.

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For Heeney, it was just as much about falling in love with the game as it was pursuing a career in the AFL. Growing up in a Rugby League dominated area, the program helped Heeney develop a passion for AFL.

Since he became part of the red and white, he never looked back, and credits the program for helping drive the enjoyment factor as-well as the level of professionalism.

"Coming from Newcastle, which is obviously NRL based and there wasn't too much AFL being played there," he said. 

"Growing up was a bit different and I played a few different sports but AFL really stuck out for me and at the age of 12 i was really lucky to become part of the Sydney Swans Academy.

"If it wasn't for that I wouldn't be where I am today. They gave me that pathway which really drove me towards being a professional athlete. 

"The biggest thing taught at the Academy was the professionalism, and how the little things equate to the bigger picture.

"Whether that be through recovery or preparation, as-well as enjoying what you do.

That's a major part of what makes someone successful - having fun and enjoying it.