Swans must advance from the Buddy-centric Forward Line

One of Sydney’s best assets could become their biggest downfall if they don’t change things quickly.

Now let’s make something very clear – although the issue is around Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin, there is no question about his skill level or his ability to play through next season.

In fact, the idea should be welcomed as a boost to the Swans and fans of the club, if the legendary figure is willing to continue his career on a lower salary.

His radiance has never faded, his shine has never dulled and these are traits off the field that the young, developing players can continue to inherit from the veteran.

However, it is clear that Franklin’s role on Sydney’s front lines is detrimental to the attacking ball movement the team wants to play with and has resulted in the club stuttering to a level below what they are capable of.

Predictability breeds mediocrity in the AFL and it’s a trap the swans fall into.

Of course Franklin is a ball magnet – after all, we are talking about one of the greatest strikers in the history of the sport.

But even in 2021, the year Sydney made the big leap from the bottom four to the final, the 35-year-old’s reliance wasn’t as heavy as it is now.

Sydney’s main forward roster was like a revolving door due to form and injury, but Franklin averaged 2.4 points inside 50 and 1.3 points in the lead.

Lance Franklin of the Swans congratulations

(Photo by Steve Bell/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

It was more than his teammates and admittedly he was the most targeted player within 50, but the split was tastier. Hayden McLean, Logan McDonald and Sam Reid all averaged between 1.3 and 1.7 points within 50 in their games, while Franklin’s work in the lead was matched or surpassed by Isaac Heeney, Tom Papley and Will Hayward.

He kicked 51 goals, but the fact that the Swans were able to have a variety of goals within 50 and keep their eyes on smaller players who are elite over the head made Buddy more of an impact. The splits were better at what the midfielders were aiming for and it felt like there was a lot of movement.

In 2022, the Swans settled on Franklin as their preferred option, a role in which he never really took off.

When we look at the top Lance Franklin, we think of the revolutionary key forward, the man who worked his way all the way into the ground to chase his ragged opponents away before knocking them back into space.

He would hover 60-70 yards from the target and either unleash his fantastic left boot, or outsmart his opponents and get space within 50. Think of Jeremy Cameron in the modern game.

Franklin has always been a bad upper bound, but it never mattered before.

This year, the Swans want the veteran striker to play as a deep full forward and work off the field.

This role requires strength, strong contentious marking and relentless work on the line. His core strength still holds and he can create space to take chest spurs, but Franklin really isn’t suited for a role that requires him to do so much.

In 2022, Lance Franklin will average three points within 50 and two points ahead per game.

It’s more than double all but Papley in Sydney in terms of points within 50, while McDonald is accurately hit 1.3 times per game in the lead. No one else averages more than one.

Tom Papley of the Swans celebrates a goal.

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

For context, Melbourne won with a varied forward line, while the two seasons before that, Richmond split the goals between Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt, with no forward pressure at their feet.

It wasn’t until the early days of the Tigers’ success that we saw similar dominant numbers to Franklin from Riewoldt, but the Tiger was a much better player on the ground and was a much better player, while Richmond’s style of play was not Riewoldt oriented.

There is a flow-on effect to limit Franklin’s play to mostly being stuck in the front arc.

Teams will still put their best main defender on him, which in theory should ease the pressure on the likes of McDonald and Reid, McLean, or whoever and however many greats the Swans choose to play.

But even with this knowledge, the swans’ ball movement is still aimed at Buddy and the chances are limited for these fully capable players within 50 with more opponents to beat.

When it’s on, it’s great. When he is free, or covered by the opposition, his attitude becomes a huge burden. The tackles can sometimes stick, but more often than not he hits players with a clothesline that would impress even John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield.

He has conceded multiple free kicks in one game in 17 of his last 29 games. He scored two goals or less in nine of these games and his frustrations were evident.

By occupying the space inside the front 50, the Swans have to push other players higher to the ground. McDonald is a hardworking center forward by nature, but may be better suited to being a leading player early in his career, while maximizing the controversial mark of Reid or McLean is best suited closer to goal.

Against Port Adelaide, it was alarming how powerless the Swans were when Buddy couldn’t separate himself from Aliir Aliir. In fact, the most convincing look of their attacking ball move was when Franklin was able to get higher to the ground and create space for him.

That’s the whole point. Like it or not, in 2022 Lance Franklin is a luxury piece, not a focal point.

Yes, he scored six goals against Brisbane and five against Richmond. Again, the ability to win games for the Swans and reach the leaderboard is not what matters.

Sydney more often than not tries to get Franklin in the lead, the opposition reads that easily and they can cover it up. We know what Einstein’s theory of madness is and it certainly doesn’t get dispelled when the swans are locked in one player.

John Longmire Sydney Swans AFL 2017

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The sample size is small, but as of early 2021, the Swans are 17-12 with Franklin on the team and 6-1 without him. They have an average of 96.71 points without him and 88.17 points with him.

This isn’t to say the Swans are better without Franklin on the team, far from it, but they are certainly functional without the one man focal point.

That focuses our attention on the rest of the 2022 season.

With the way they are playing now, Sydney cannot win the premiership.

It’s an exciting team with such a great young talent, but the Franklin situation is stifling the attacking ball movement. To try and capitalize on Buddy’s strengths, they can be caught being too precise, leaving them vulnerable at the back.

At 35, it’s over for Franklin to return to the halcyon days when he spent 90 percent of the playing time roaming the ground and being utterly dominant.

But the one thing we know Franklin hasn’t lost is his ability to move to the left shoe and send the ball over the umpire’s hat from 60 yards.

Rather than ask him to do the job between ten and 40 yards from the goal and have the teams read the flight of the ball within 50, it behooves Swans coach John Longmire to try something different and put his star player on the edge of the 50.

He won’t reach the incredible numbers he once had, but having Franklin take up the space between the center circle and the arc can be hugely beneficial on several fronts.

Lance Franklin Swans

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

It creates a lot more space within 50 for Sydney’s impressive forwards, it means the ball movement will be unpredictable and submissions can catch the defenders and we know the team can score heavily no matter who’s in it.

Suppose Franklin takes five or six marks per game and has the ball around 50. There haven’t been too many better forward keys in the history of the game and at worst you have one of the best long range kicks on target from 55-60 yards.

Teams won’t want to send their best key defenders that far to cover him, but Buddy can take the game from teams if they don’t.

We thought three-point shooting was important in basketball, but you could leave a majority of the players to take open shots. Then Steph Curry came along and changed what range shooting was and created such an important space for his team, demanding close defensive attention and releasing teammates.

Here’s what Sydney and Franklin can do to rejuvenate their premiership chances this season and beyond.

In 2022, Lance Franklin is best suited to be an impact player, rather than a do-or-die forward option that can be inconsistent for a team looking for the ultimate reward at the end of the game. season.

Capturing what makes him special and maximizing the long-lasting traits that have made the 1,024-goal star what he is today is the art form behind elite coaching and transforming a team.

Right now, Lance Franklin remains one of Sydney’s greatest assets, but he is also one of the team’s biggest problems.

The Swans have the opportunity to change that and we have the opportunity to shape Buddy more games than ever in the coming seasons.

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