Buddy Brilliant But Worth His Weight In Gold?

The GWS Giants are doing everything they possibly can to lure Lance “Buddy” Franklin to Skoda Stadium next year. Without a win in 2013, GWS realises that they’re desperately struggling on field and in need of some A-grade talent to aid the development of its younger players. They’re in the fortunate position where they have plenty of room in the salary cap to financially entice any player in the competition to join the club.

However, just who is the right man for the Giants and at what price? The GWS administration firmly believes that the man is “Buddy” Franklin and that he is worth $12 million over six years. It’s an astonishing figure, one never seen before in this game. While the AFL may pay some of it, GWS’s willingness to offer this type of money highlights their strong belief that Franklin is the man destined to lead GWS to its first premiership.

From all reports, it appears GWS will likely get their wish. Franklin’s management has put off contract talks with Hawthorn until the end of the season. While Hawks supporters may hold out hope that Franklin will re-sign, the stalled negotiations are normally a sign that Franklin is packing his bags to Sydney. For most of us, the GWS offer appears simply too good to refuse.

The facts are simple. Hawthorn can simply not come close to matching the financial offer made by GWS. In fact, its best offer allegedly falls $5 million short.

GWS has seen the hugely positive effects of Gary Ablett at the Gold Coast Suns. We only have to look to Ablett’s 49 disposal and two-goal performance in last week’s win against Collingwood to see the impact just one player can have. GWS will be hoping that Franklin can have a similar or perhaps even greater impact in Sydney’s west. The money demands it.

Yet, I’m not too confident that Franklin will deliver the same benefits as Ablett. In my view, there are far better alternatives at a lower cost; Scott Gumbleton, Josh Kennedy (WCE) or Mark LeCras, just to name a few.

While there is little doubt that Franklin, at his best, is the most talented player in the competition, he achieves these dazzling heights far too infrequently. The erratic nature of Franklin’s game is his biggest challenge. Franklin’s challenges with inconsistent form at the Hawks will not be helped playing in a poor performing and developing side like GWS. In Sydney’s west, Franklin cannot expect the same sharp delivery into the forward line and will not have the solid support of forwards like Roughead and Gunston.

Last season, Franklin’s goal accuracy was at a poor 51 per cent and this season has hovered at around 56 per cent. Compare these figures to Josh Kennedy’s accuracy of 74 per cent in 2013 and you begin to see clear evidence of Franklin’s kicking woes.

Of course, it would be negligible for me not to mention Franklin’s apparent poor off-field behaviour. While much of the innuendo about his off field antics may not be true, there is enough factual information to suggest it should deter GWS from signing Franklin. Last year began with Franklin’s driving licence being suspended as well as AFL Chief, Andrew Demetriou, allegedly being outraged at Franklin’s intoxicated behaviour at a Grand Prix corporate event. He was also forced to apologise after verbally abusing a woman at a Melbourne bar. For a new football club like GWS trying to build a strong culture, there is enough baggage with Franklin to suggest the club should look elsewhere.

Ultimately what is most important for GWS is Franklin’s influence on the field, not off it. Franklin’s ability to make the impossible look easy is something which supporters cannot stop watching. When he dribbles the ball through the big sticks from the sharpest angles, he becomes the most exquisite player the game has perhaps ever seen.

If he can be on the top of his game often enough, there is little doubt he’ll be a major addition to the GWS line up. I suppose eventually it’s a trade-off; GWS must truly question whether Buddy is really worth a $12 million risk?