Newcastle teenager and Swans Academy player Isaac Heeney is one of 11 juniors Australia-wide to win the inaugural Jim Stynes Scholarship.
This article was first published in the Newcastle Herald.
By Josh Leeson
Cardiff midfielder Isaac Heeney's dream of becoming a professional Aussie rules footballer has taken a mighty leap forward.
The 16-year-old Hawk was one of 11 juniors Australia-wide to win the inaugural Jim Stynes Scholarship, which is a federal government-financed program aimed at helping disadvantaged footballers reach the AFL.
Stynes died in March after a long and public battle with cancer and was renowned for his acts of philanthropy.
The No.11 Melbourne Demons jersey was made famous by Stynes and his wife, Sam, along with a panel of judges from the AFL and the Reach Foundation chose to offer 11 scholarships.
The scholarship is worth up to $20,000 over two years and helps ease the financial burden of football, travel and education expenses.
Heeney and his older brother Beau, 17, are both members of the Sydney Swans Academy and travel at least once a week down the F3 Freeway for training.
Heeney was the only player from NSW included.
"I can't say enough how awesome it is and what an honour it is to be one of the first to receive this scholarship," Heeney said.
During this season the Black Hill product was voted best on ground in all three matches for the NSW/ACT Rams at the under-16 AFL national championships in Blacktown and was selected in the Australian Institute of Sport program.
As Heeney's AFL career gathers momentum, he says some important decisions about his future have to be made.
"My parents, my brother and I have to sit down and decide a few things, but we're not 100 per cent sure yet," he said.
"At the moment they're trying to keep us in our local towns and I can travel, because Sydney is only two hours away."
Heeney was in the crowd at the MCG with the AIS squad to watch the Swans' grand final win over Hawthorn last month.
He was ecstatic to see his favourite player, Ryan O'Keefe, win the Norm Smith Medal for best on ground.
In a few years, Heeney hopes to be wearing the red and white at the SCG. It is a pathway he knows is possible after seeing Nelson Bay-bred midfielder Craig Bird taste premiership glory with the Swans.
Meanwhile, Bird was named yesterday in the inaugural NSW/ACT State of Origin side for his successful season with the Swans.
To see the full NSW/ACT State of Origin side click here.