The biggest move of the offseason belonged to mercurial forward and former Hawthorn premiership superstar, Lance Franklin. After a few months of seeming like Buddy was either going to be a Giant or stay a Hawk, the Swans – rivals of both teams – swooped in and signed the big man to an unprecedented nine year deal.
Obviously, Franklin is a proven match winner and his record speaks for itself. But individual brilliance can ruin a team’s structure. With the Swans traditionally being composed of hard nut teams with plenty of solid to excellent hard working players, Buddy’s move becomes all the more interesting.
At Hawthorn, the team statistically was better offensively without Franklin. Jarryd Roughead, Jack Gunston and the small forwards had vast increases in their outputs when Franklin wasn’t playing. For this reason, some Hawks supporters won’t mind Franklin leaving all that much.
This brings us to the big predicament – where and how will Franklin fit into the Swans forward line? The addition of Kurt Tippett last year was seamless and almost dream-like for the Swans. He was kicking at a much higher percentage than previous years. In his final year at the Crows, Tippett kicked 39.31 from 21 games; in 2013, he kicked 35.20 from 12 games.
Obviously the amount of delivery Tippett gets will lower with Buddy’s arrival. What’s more intruiging, however, is how will all the pieces fit? With Jesse White and Shane Mumford leaving, the Swans only have Myke Pyke as a strong ruck choice. That means Tippett will have to shoulder at least 25% of the game in the ruck.
On top of this is the other, less obvious issue surrounding the forward line. Here’s what the front six might look like at times:
HF: A. Goodes, L. Franklin, G.Rohan
FF: S.Reid, K. Tippett, B. McGlynn
That’s a crowded forward line. Considering guys like Luke Parker and Tom Mitchell will need to rotate through there, it’s hard to see how the structure will work. Sam Reid could well end up as a backman, which honestly mightn’t be such a bad idea. However, with Heath Grundy and Ted Richards, the Swans don’t need him there.
Adam Goodes can play anywhere, but in the twilight of his career, he looks best used as a forward. Gary Rohan and Ben McGlynn are excellent crumbers, but they also excel on the lead. There simply won’t be enough space.
So what do you do with a problem like Buddy? Yet, can we even call a man capable of kicking 100 goals in a year a problem? Contractually and on paper, Franklin’s nine year deal looks like it will cause more harm than good.
Perhaps, as the case was with Matthew Richardson, Franklin is better suited to an athletic role, where his kicking won’t be such an issue. Playing him off the wing will not only open up space, but allow him to showcase his athleticism as well as using his instinct for kicking on the run, rather than relying on his much maligned set shots.
Time will tell, but this will be the most interesting experiment of them all.