The enigma that is Lance Franklin was on full display on Friday night, as the Sydney Swans battled Hawthorn at ANZ Stadium in front of an expectant, but slightly disappointing attendance of 34,586.
Franklin, in his first encounter against his former side, was wildly inaccurate early – booting seven straight behinds in the first three-quarters. However, he had a major impact on the result in the final term which delighted the home fans, booting two crucial goals as the Swans came from three points down at the final change to claim victory over last years premiers by 19 points.
While he may have been erratic in front of goal, Franklin contributed valuably during the course of the game, with 21 disposals, nine scoring shots and an impressive tally of 10 marks, of which five were contested.
Inversely, Franklin’s roller-coaster performance was typified by his seven behinds and six free kicks against, and that his 21 disposals came at only 42.9% efficiency.
This was Franklin’s 7th appearance for the Swans in 2014, after missing last weeks win over the Brisbane Lions with a knee-complaint, and it was one of his best performances of the season. While twice this year he has kicked bags of four goals in a match, the nine scoring shots against his former club were the most Franklin has had in any AFL match since his eight goal haul against Essendon in Round 18 last year.
A worry for Sydney is that his season tally of 14.15 in seven games is well below his 2013 numbers of 60.37 in 21 games. To put that in perspective, his average of two goals per game still falls considerably below his career average of 3.1 goals in his 189 matches.
Importantly for Swans fans, the win over Hawthorn marked the first appearance together of the boom forward duo of Franklin and Kurt Tippett. Tippett’s four goals, combined with Franklin’s 2.7, meant that the pair contributed 43 of the Swans 107 cumulative points for the game. In coming weeks, injury permitting, the Franklin/Tippett partnership will be expected to gel further and, given the number of options in the Swans midfield capable of providing silver-service delivery to the twin targets, one can imagine that the John Longmire’s side will be hard to beat in the run to the finals.
Franklin has shown previously, via his collaboration with Jarryd Roughead at Hawthorn, that he is able to combine effectively inside the forward line with another marking tall. Given that Franklin and Roughead were able to combine for 132 goals in the Hawks’ 2013 premiership year, the expectation now that Tippett has returned would be for 100 goals combined. Considering the uncertainty over Tippett’s longevity after so many weeks in the sidelines, five goals a game between the pair could be another measure of their influence.
Of course, if Franklin has his kicking boots on and reaches his full ability, then five goals a game is a target that he can reach alone. With his current inconsistency that has defined his early Sydney career, and the settling in period at his new club, this may be some time off yet.
What is for sure, however, is that rumours of Franklin’s demise have been prematurely exaggerated. Despite his questionable ability when faced with a steering wheel, and his other off-field theatrics, he remains a key asset in the Swans bid to claim the 2014 premiership cup.