Could Buddy’s left-foot determine the grand final?

Date: September 28, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

BuddyIt was Goran Ivanisevic, the 2001 winner of the men’s singles championship at Wimbledon, who often referred to himself as two people in one – the good Goran and the bad Goran.

As a wildcard entry at the All-England Club in 2001 – the only player to have claimed the title as such – the good Goran was ever-present with his booming left-handed serve used to great effect.

Sydney Swan’s full-forward and talisman Buddy Franklin’s major weapon is also on his left side.

If it is calibrated on Saturday he will likely become just the third man in history to win a premiership in successive years with two different clubs.

Sydney rolled the dice at the end of last season and splashed out a record amount to secure Franklin’s services on a nine-year deal.

This Saturday ‘Buddy’ has the chance to repay the club’s faith in his maiden season in the red-and-white.

Fresh from finishing tied for second place with Gary Ablett in this year’s Brownlow Medal count on Monday, Franklin will go into the season decider carrying the most focus of any of the 44 players on centre stage.

He has the ability to win the game off his own boot, but history indicates that he also has the potential to make life tough for his own team.

Franklin has talent to burn – the stunning running shot from the boundary line; the booming set shot from 60m; the strong pack mark.

However goal front accuracy has not always been one of his strong suits.

Through 203 matches he has averaged 3.2 goals per game.

In the same period he has averaged 2.3 behinds to give him a career conversion rate of 58.7 per cent.

It is not exactly a stellar figure.

Franklin often plays up the ground where his penetrative kicking can put enormous pressure on opposition defences.

Despite him pushing up the ground this season he still managed to win the Coleman Medal for the third time with a home-and-away tally of 67 goals.

Just how John Longmire utilises Buddy’s abundant talents on Saturday will be one of the more intriguing aspects of the game.

There is no doubting the potency and goal scoring capability of the Swan’s forward line.

It was certainly on display in the preliminary final demolition of the Kangaroos last weekend when Sydney amassed 19.22.136 – its highest score in a final in the club’s history.

It was the Swans’ tall timber that did the bulk of the damage with Franklin (five goals), Kurt Tippett (four) and Adam Goodes (three) tormenting the North Melbourne defence.

If Franklin primarily plays close to goal it is hard not to see him having at least six shots on goal – he kicked 3.3 against Fremantle in the qualifying final and 5.2 against the Roos.

Just how well he converts those opportunities may well determine the outcome of the match.

On paper it would appear that Sydney is more capable of causing a blowout given its scoring arsenal.

However, in all likelihood it will be a close run affair.

That makes it even more crucial from a Sydney point of view that Franklin is on song kicking wise.

If he converts well it will make it very tough for the Hawks but Alistair Clarkson and his charges will be all too aware of Buddy’s foibles at times in front of goal.

In no way is Franklin the only man who could determine the outcome of the 2104 premiership but he has within him the proven ability to singlehandedly dismantle an opponent.

He will have no better venue than the MCG this Saturday to once again display that fact.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 25 September 2014