Isaac Heeney is poised to join the elite of AFL players aged under 22.
Heeney has been chosen with Swans teammates Will Hayward and Ben Ronke in the preliminary 40-man squad for the 2018 22Under22 team of the year.
This is a fan-based award for players aged under 22 driven by the AFL Players’ Association.
Now in its seventh year, 22Under22 is the AFL’s only recognised fan-voted award and provides the football public with the power to select the final 22.
To be eligible players must be aged 22 years and under for the entirety of the season, including the finals series.
The AFLPA Board selects the preliminary squad based on performance across the home-and-away season, but now it is over to the fans.
The 40-man squad is divided into backs, midfielders, forwards and rucks, and fans are invited to nominate an 18-man starting team comprising six defenders, five midfielders, one ruck and six forwards, and a four-man interchange bench of two midfielders, one defender and one forward.
Fans can visit 22under22.com.au to cast their votes before the final team is revealed at the AFL Players’ MVP Awards on Thursday 30 August.
Fans who submit a team that matches the final 22Under22 team will automatically go into the draw to win an AFL Players’ prize pack.
Voting closes on Tuesday 28 August.
Heeney has been selected in the 22Under22 team in 2016 and 2017, and will find himself in rare company if included again. Only eight players have been chosen three or more times.
The Western Bulldogs’ Marcus Bontempelli, captain of the 22Under22 side in 2016-17, is the only four-time selection and in line for a fifth, while three-time selections have been Jake Lever (playing with Adelaide and now at Melbourne), Daniel Talia (Adelaide), Dyson Heppell (Essendon), Ollie Wines and Chad Wingard (Port Adelaide), Brandon Ellis (Richmond) and Jack Darling (West Coast).
Heeney is one of seven Swans players who have been selected in the 22Under22 team over the first six years of the award. The others have been Dan Hannebery (2012-13), Luke Parker (2014-15), Callum Mills (2016-17) and Tom Papley (2017).
Parker was vice-captain in 2015.
The Swans’ three-player representation this year has been bettered only by three clubs – Melbourne (six), Western Bulldogs (five) and Brisbane (four).
Four clubs are not represented – Geelong, Hawthorn, North Melbourne and West Coast.
The 40-man preliminary squad on a club by club basis, classified as either a defender (D), midfielder (M), forward (F) or ruckman (R), is:
Adelaide: Tom Doedee (D), Wayne Milera (D).
Brisbane: Harris Andrews (D), Eric Hipwood (F), Hugh McCluggage (M), Alex Witherden (D).
Carlton: Charlie Curnow (F), Zac Fisher (M).
Collingwood: Jordan DeGoey (F), Tom Phillips (M), Jaidyn Stephenson (F).
Essendon: Andrew McGrath (D), Conor McKenna (D), Zach Merrett (M)
Fremantle: Sean Darcy (R), Ed Langdon (D).
Gold Coast: Touk Miller (M), Lachie Weller (D).
GWS: Jacob Hopper (M), Tim Taranto (M).
Melbourne: Angus Brayshaw (M), Bayley Fritsch (F), James Harmes (M), Alex Neal-Bullen (F), Clayton Oliver (M), Christian Petracca (M).
Port Adel: Dougal Howard (D), Sam Powell-Pepper (M).
Richmond: Dan Butler (F), Jayden Short (D).
St.Kilda: Jade Gresham (F), Jack Steele (M).
Sydney: Isaac Heeney (M), Will Hayward (F), Ben Ronke (F).
W/Bulldogs: Marcus Bontempelli (M), Tim English (R), Billy Gowers (F), Toby McLean (M), Bailey Williams (D).
Heeney is one of eight members of the 2017 22Under22 side in line for selection this year. The others are Brisbane’s Andrews and Hipwood, Bontempelli, Charlie Curnow (Carlton), Zach Merrett and Andrew McGrath (Essendon) and Clayton Oliver (Melbourne).
Patrick Dangerfield, now at Geelong, was named captain of the inaugural 22Under22 side in 2012 when playing at Adelaide, while Heppell was captain in 2013-14, Western Bulldogs Jake Stringer (now at Essendon) was captain in 2015.
North Melbourne’s Jack Ziebell was vice-captain in 2013, followed by Hawthorn’s Jack Gunston in 2014, Parker in 2015, and Essendon’s Zac Merrett in 2016-17. No vice-captain was named in 2012.
Gold Coast (17) have won most selections overall, ahead of Adelaide (13), Essendon (12), GWS (11) and Collingwood (10).
Players selected in the 22Under22 side in 2012-13-14-15-16-17, with their years of selection, have been:
Adelaide: Rory Sloane (12), Danial Talia (12-13-14), Patrick Dangerfield (12), Taylor Walker (12), Brodie Smith (14), Rory Laird (15-16), Jake Lever (15-16-17), Matt Crouch (17).
Brisbane: Jack Redden (12), Harris Andrews (17), Eric Hipwood (17).
Carlton: Patrick Cripps (15-16), Sam Docherty (16), Jacob Weitering (16), Charlie Curnow (17).
Collingwood: Dayne Beams (12), Steele Sidebottom (12-13), Tom Langdon (14-15), Jarrod Witts (14), Jamie Elliott (14), Brodie Grundy (15-16), Darcy Moore (16).
Essendon: Dyson Heppell (12-13-14), Michael Hurley (12), David Zaharakis (12), Jake Carlisle (13-14), Zach Merrett (16-17), Joe Daniher (16), Orazio Fantasia (17), Andrew McGrath (12).
Fremantle: Nat Fyfe (13), Michael Walters (13), Lachie Neale (15).
Geelong: Steven Motlop (12-13).
Gold Coast: Dion Prestia (13-14), Trent McKenzie (13-14), Jaeger O’Meara (13), Tom Nicholls (13), Rory Thompson (13), Kade Kolodjashnij (14-15), Steven May (14), Harley Bennell (14), David Swallow (14). Adam Saad (15), Tom Lynch (15), Jack Martin (16-17), Peter Wright (17).
GWS: Phil Davis (12), Callan Ward (12), Jeremy Cameron (13-15), Adam Treloar (14-15), Devon Smith (15), Dylan Shiel (15), Stephen Coniglio (16), Zac Williams (16), James Kelly (17).
Hawthorn: Luke Breust (12-13), Jack Gunston (14), Ryan Burton (17), James Sicily (17).
Melbourne: Jeremy Howe (12), Jesse Hogan (15-16), Christian Petracca (15), Jack Viney (16), Jayden Hunt (17), Clayton Oliver (17).
North Melbourne: Aaron Mullett (13), Jack Ziebell (13), Luke McDonald (14).
Port Adelaide: Jackson Trengove (12), Chad Wingard (13-14-15), Ollie Wines (15-16-17), Jack Hombsch (15).
Richmond: Dustin Martin (12-13), Alex Rance (12), Trent Cotchin (12), Brandon Ellis (13-14-15), Daniel Rioli (17).
St.Kilda: Tim Membrey (16), Jack Billings (17).
Sydney: Dan Hannebery (12-13), Luke Parker (13-14), Isaac Heeney (16-17), Callum Mills (16-17), Tom Papley (17).
Western Bulldogs: Tom Liberatore (13-14), Marcus Bontempelli (14-15-16-17), Jake Stringer (15-16), Lachie Hunter (16).
West Coast: Jack Darling (12-13-14), Nic Naitanui (12), Elliot Yeo (15).
Interestingly, 17 of the 92 players to win 22Under22 selection are no longer at the club where they won this honour.