Playing for a spot in the AFL grand final at a capacity MCG was the last thing on Isaac Heeney's mind when he was dropped to the Swans' reserves two months ago.
Physically exhausted from the endless rigours of his second season, Heeney was given a week off football in round 16 then made to earn a senior recall playing a NEAFL game at Blacktown in front of just a few hundred fans.
On Friday night he'll be entertaining almost 90,000 as Sydney square off against Geelong in a mouth-watering preliminary final, fresh from his most important showing yet for the Swans.
Heeney was one of Sydney's best in Saturday's bruising semi-final win over Adelaide, thrust into midfield at stages from his customary forward role to give the Swans some extra grunt in the engine room.
His most significant contributions for the Swans this year had been through hitting the scoreboard, but against the Crows he collected 32 disposals and was strong at the contest providing another hard body around stoppages.
It gives coach John Longmire another string to his midfield bow for the Cats game, although Heeney may be required to spend more time up forward this weekend after Gary Rohan's knee injury.
Longmire's decision to rest Heeney could prove to be one of his finest masterstrokes this year, with the blonde-haired livewire now recovered from thewear and tear his body took earlier in the season.
He'll certainly need to be at peak fitness – the Swans head into their heavyweight clash with Geelong off the back of just a six-day turnaround, while the Cats have had two weeks to prepare.
"It's not a massive turnaround, we'll go in and we've just got to focus on our recovery and prepare the best we can for it," Heeney said.
"A lot of ice baths, a lot of massages and just get our bodies fresh because they're going to be fresh coming off a two-week break.
"It's incredible. Last year we got knocked out in straight sets, this year I was told close to 90,000 next week. It's going to be special.
"We're confident in each other. Injuries hit us but we're not going to focus on that. We're going to focus on our depth and our good form tonight leading into next week."
Rohan left the SCG via a mobile stretcher in the first half on Saturday night, while co-captain Jarrad McVeigh failed to see out the game after injuring his calf.
Key defender Callum Mills continues to battle a hamstring tear, while ruckman Kurt Tippett is hopeful of overcoming a hairline fracture in his jaw to play against the Cats.
"We've been hit the last two weeks pretty hard by injuries, it sort of hit us last year as well," Heeney said.
"We won't look at that, we won't focus on that, we'll definitely include them in everything throughout the week.
"You've got to try and look at it in a way to uplift us.