Mills keen to resume Heeney hostilities
Training sessions at the Sydney Swans’ academy last year were unmissable.
Not only were the top-two draft prospects — Isaac Heeney and Callum Mills — on display, they were testing themselves against each other. And not holding back.
By Ben Waterworth
When it came to drills like stoppage work or match simulation, Mills would make a direct beeline for his star teammate.
“If I saw him and it was a one-on-one training drill at Sydney, I’d pick Isaac out and we’d go head-to-head,” Mills told Fox Footy.
“We’d just try to smash each other and beat each other without any costs towards us,” he said.
“He made me train harder and work harder.”
For keen Swans track-watchers, those enthralling head-to-head training battles between Heeney and Mills are set to reignite soon, with the latter tipped to officially join Sydney during this year’s draft — 12 months after Heeney was also selected by the Swans as an academy selection.
While one has a big blonde mop of hair and the other a hipster ginger cut, there are ample similarities between the two young guns.
Like Heeney, Mills grew up in suburban Sydney and was pinched by the Swans academy from another sport. Both are tough, competitive midfielders who are elite ball-winners and can cleanly extract the footy by either hand or foot. Both, also, like to hit the scoreboard and have leadership qualities.
So with plenty of parallels, it was impossible not to ask: Who’s going to turn out the better player?
“That’s a tough question,” Mills laughed.
“I think we both have different strengths. He’s definitely got the runs on the board now.”
Heeney was a massive bargain for the Swans. Widely considered a top-five talent, he was secured with pick No. 18 in the 2014 draft.
The Swans’ steal was a big reason why the AFL made a swift change to its academy bidding system.
In this year’s draft, a rival club can now live bid on an academy player, such as Mills. So for the Swans to hold on to Mills, they must match the rival bid by giving up an array of their own picks.
Such is the high regard for his talent and potential, Mills could attract a bid as early as pick No. 3 (Melbourne), meaning the Swans might have to relinquish four of their selections to secure him.
While it’s a heftier, yet fairer, price to pay, the Swans are highly unlikely to let Mills slide to another club, as they know they have a star in the making — and a lifelong Swans supporter — in the palm of their hand.
JOURNEY TO STARDOM
Mills’ footy journey officially began when he was 13-years-old, albeit in sore and rushed circumstances.
Having just completed a rugby union game for Warringah, Mills was asked by then Swans board member, now chairman, Andrew Pridham to fill in for the Mosman Swans — his son’s AFL team.
He agreed to help out. And, on debut, he starred.
A few standout games later and Mills was quickly ushered in to Sydney’s academy.
“After your first game of AFL, if someone says you’re quite good when you’re 13-years-old, you keep coming back again and again,” he said.
“The game really suited my type of traits and different types of skills.”
However it was in 2013 when Mills truly burst onto the wider footy scene, thanks to a scintillating under 16 national championships campaign.
The NSW-ACT skipper blew crowds away, averaging 175 SuperCoach points and winning the Alan McLean medal for the carnival’s best division two player.
Just as impressively, Mills then carried that form into the 2014 under 18 carnival, averaging 21 disposals, five tackles and five clearances as a bottom-age player.