Email The deal seemed preposterous, but the Swans are getting value for money from Buddy Franklin By Offsiders columnist Richard Hinds
Posted April 09, 2018 04:44:36
Photo: Franklin's thumping 65-metre goal against the Giants was show-stopping. (AAP: David Moir) Related Story: Sydney can't just surf the Buddy wave to victory Related Story: Power charge past Swans as Eagles thump Dogs on Easter Sunday Map: Sydney 2000
With little more than five minutes to play at the SCG on Saturday night, the Sydney Swans cling to a 10-point lead over the Greater Western Sydney Giants in a tense, fiercely contested game.
It is the type of taut encounter needed to add credibility to the so-called Battle of the Bridge. A meeting that was, in its initial versions, a rivalry only in the PowerPoint presentations of the AFL's enthusiastic marketing executives.
From a scrimmage in the middle of the ground, Lance Franklin gets on the end of a handball. Instinctively, he dismisses a hapless Giants' opponent with his big right paw and wields onto his left foot.
External Link: Tweet: Buddy Franklin
The turning circle is so familiar it has a nickname — Buddy's Arc. As Franklin gathers momentum and swallows up the ground there is no chance anyone will impede his stampede. The result seems preordained, a thumping 65m kick that lands precisely between the goal posts.
The Swans have the game won. The one-sided crowd is ecstatic. Later coach John Longmire will be at pains to share the praise and deflect attention from Franklin's starring role. But as they head for the exits, the fans will talk about just one thing. That goal!
It is tempting to describe Franklin's latest show-stopping feat as a moment that money can't buy. But, of course, even the greatest sporting romantic must acknowledge the transactional element in his performances.
The covert $10.2 million operation that brought Franklin to (eastern) Sydney from Hawthorn will always be part of his epic tale.
Yet by matching his undoubted brilliance with unexpected longevity, he is providing an ending those of us who were sceptical about the nine-year deal never imagined.
External Link: AFL tweet: Enjoy all of Lance Franklin's eight goals from Sydney's strong win over the Eagles
Andrew Ireland, the Swans' savvy chief executive, will retire this season. When Ireland signed Franklin in late 2013 after months of secret negotiations, the length of the deal seemed even more preposterous than the eight-figure price tag.
Franklin was 27 when he arrived in Sydney. He will be 36 when he collects the last of his vast annual pay cheques.
Plagued by thumb and shoulder injuries when he arrived in Sydney, it seemed certain Ireland had paid for a Rolls Royce but would leave his successor with a V8 Commodore with 200,000 kilometres on the clock. A limping salary cap liability that would compromise the club's future.
Yet here we are nearing the halfway mark of Franklin's contract and he is playing better than at any stage of his Swans career.
In the opening round against West Coast in Perth he kicked eight goals and, most encouragingly, took several pack marks, the one element that had been missing from his game.
Photo: In the opening round against West Coast, Franklin kicked eight goals and took several pack marks. (AAP: Travis Anderson)
Is Franklin actually underrated?
Such is Franklin's durability that The Age's chief football writer, Jake Niall, recently pondered whether a man who is a seven time All-Australian and four time Coleman Medallist is actually underrated by the football pundits.
As midfielders who have more possession but far less impact on contests line up to collect Brownlow Medals and the various media awards while Franklin is overlooked, it is hard to disagree with Niall's thesis.
There is no question Ireland got value for money. A contract that guaranteed Franklin $700,000 in his first two seasons, $1.2 million in his next three and then $1.3 million, $1.4 million, $1.5 million and $1 million could never be described as a bargain.
External Link: AFL tweet: BUDDY! Can he inspire the Swans? #AFLSwansPower
But, at the very least, the Franklin deal can now be compared to a seemingly outrageous price paid for a house that has continued to increase in value. If $10.2 million was jaw-dropping in 2013, it is merely market price now.
And this is without considering the enormous value Franklin has provided at the turnstile and the merchandise stalls from the moment he walked through the club's front door. If the Swans are the House That Plugger Built, then Buddy has added another wing.
There have been a couple of times when the Franklin deal seemed on a knife-edge. The injuries and depression that forced him out of the Swans team during the 2015 finals had many wondering if things had come unstuck. Although, pertinently, not coach Longmire, whose handling of his team's star forward as a person, not merely a prime asset, has been exemplary.
Inevitably, however, Franklin's publicity-shy off-field persona — he is Lance off the ground, while his alter-ego Buddy pulls on the boots — has only added another layer of intrigue to his performances.
So now there is just one thing missing before the Franklin deal can be hailed as an unqualified success. Buddy's Flag.
The inability to win a premiership with the game's best forward has not been for want of opportunity. In the 2016 grand final against the Western Bulldogs, Franklin was injured in the opening minutes and the Swans did not have the rub of the green (or they were robbed by the men in green if the dark mutterings of some officials and fans were to be believed.)
Sydney needs more than Buddy
Lance Franklin is a freak of sporting nature but he will need help to get Sydney Swans over the line in 2018, writes Andrew McGarry.
Losing their first six games last season meant the Swans needed a tremendous effort to reach the finals. The exertion required to make up lost ground left them as sitting ducks in September.
This time? If Franklin's brilliance inflames expectations, it is the club's excellent youngsters such as Callum Mills, Will Hayward and Oliver Florent who are the fuel on the fire.
Yet again, the Swans have regenerated while still peeking through the premiership window.
It would be poignant if the Swans were to meet the Giants in this year's grand final — the most exciting player in the game against the new franchise that was infuriated when Franklin went to their cross-town rivals behind their backs.
Not a grand final the scalpers would want, but one for contemporary connoisseurs.
Photo: The one thing Franklin still has to give the Swans is a grand final win, after being injured out of the 2016 game against the Western Bulldogs. (AAP: Julian Smith)
Topics: sport, australian-football-league, sydney-2000, nsw, australia
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Supple on Keane support and being Cluxton’s understudy
A rain-soaked summer’s evening in Paris may have been an unusual setting for to thank Roy Keane for his support, but such is the unusual path Shane Supple’s career has followed.
Supple and his Bohs team-mates are currently on a fine run of form, having risen away from the relegation zone into fifth place in the SSE Airitricity League and welcome Cork City to Dalymount Park on Sunday in the FAI Cup semi-final.
It is a far cry from nine years ago when Supple announced his retirement from professional soccer in August 2009, telling then Ipswich manager Keane that he had "fallen out of love" with his profession.
After six years away from the game, where he pursued his interest in Gaelic Football and spent the 2013 season as understudy to Stephen Cluxton with Dublin, he played for Crumlin United in 2015 before signing for the Gypsies in 2016.
A remarkable turnaround saw him called into the Republic of Ireland’s end-of-season international friendlies against France and the USA.
It was the encounter at the Stade de France which saw the 31-year-old speak to Keane properly for the first time in nine years.
"It was nice to thank Roy for how he handled that whole situation," he told Soccer Republic Extra. "He asked me if I needed any help or if I wanted to take a few weeks off from Ipswich [in 2009]. I think he saw from how I reacted how I made my mind up that it was time to come home.
"Within three days I was out of there, contract cancelled and no issues.
"I said, ‘thanks for how you looked after me’".
He also reflected on his time with the Dubs where he had the unenviable task of attempting to dislodge Cluxton as number one choice.
"I went into the panel in 2013 in Jim’s first year and spent the whole season involved behind Stephen. I knew I wasn’t going to get an opportunity to play as much as I wanted to play. I wanted to play every game.
"I saw there wasn’t much opportunity for me so I stepped back"
"It was a big ambition of mine when I came back from England to play for Dublin.
"I saw there wasn’t much opportunity for me so I stepped back from that, and there were work commitments as well. Eventually it came back around to Bohs."
He continued to juggle club commitments with St Brigid’s and Bohs, but had to step earlier this schedule pushed him to his limits.
One particular weekend in April was "too much" he admits where he lined out for Bohs on Friday night, played senior club championship against Ballymun at Parnell Park the following day before travelling to the Brandywell for a game against Derry City on Monday night.
Now he is fully focused on the Gypsies and says the recent 3-1 victory away to St Patrick’s Athletic was another positive note.
"We’re on the crest of a wave at the moment. The young lads stepped up at St Pats where the other lads had left off.
"The confidence is high and the second half of the season has been easier for us. The first half was difficult in terms of recovery, especially for us because we are part-time. Lads are working, so recovery is not as bad.
"We have a game now every week, it’s been a lot easier. We can work on things on training and we have a settled team."
Bjorn: We are facing one of strongest ever US teams
Europe captain Thomas Bjorn insists he and his team do not fear a revitalised Tiger Woods despite the 14-time major winner's spectacular return to form.
Bjorn said they were not scared of the 42-year-old, who ended a five-year drought with victory at the Tour Championship on Sunday, nor any of his stellar United States team-mates.
Woods has rocketed from world number 1,173 in December to 13th after finally breaking his barren spell at the PGA Tour's season-ending event.
He may have seen off the challenge of the likes of Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, John Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey at East Lake but that does not mean Europe's Ryder Cup players will feel any inferiority at Le Golf National this week.
"We don't fear anyone because we've played against them so many times before individually but we respect our opponents and know what we are up against," said Bjorn.
"That, I think, is key to all this. We'll go out and do what we can and play our game.
"What stands on the other side we know is one of the strongest American teams of all time.
"We do what we do as a European team and then we go out and take that onto the golf course – and that's all 12 Americans.
"It's not one individual, it's the whole team we are up against."
The United States team comprises six of the world's top 10 and 11 of the top 17, including number one Dustin Johnson, number three Brooks Koepka and number four Justin Thomas.
But none carry the weight that Woods does, even if his Ryder Cup record is poor by his previously high standards.
In seven appearances he has won 13 and lost 17 of his 33 matches, including just half a point from four matches on his last appearance in 2012.
Much of that was put down to his singular, often aloof, attitude in the past which did not lend itself to a team environment.
But after back fusion surgery threatened to end Woods' career, he has returned a different, more approachable, character and many of his team-mates hung around at East Lake to see him win.
"Tiger played so well at The Tour Championship and to grab a hold of the golf tournament early and fend everyone off, I think was a good buzz in the team room," said USA captain Jim Furyk.
"A lot of the guys stayed out there at the course to congratulate him.
"He's played really well all year, I think. (He's) been knocking on the door at two majors and had a number of opportunities to win this year.
"When you look at now, maybe comparing past Ryder Cups to this one, I think what's so special is Tiger has engrained himself in our team atmosphere and became such a big part of the team in 2016 as a vice-captain, and then again in 2017 as an assistant captain at the Presidents Cup.
"I think it's special for him now to kind of join these younger players as a team-mate.
"You know, he won yesterday as an individual and I know how much that means to him and how important it was, but he's flipped that page pretty quickly and is really excited to join his team-mates and move forward in that process."
Even Bjorn had to admit he was pleased to see Woods back in the winners' circle.
"I spent 25 years playing professional golf with Tiger Woods and any time he does anything great, that's a story and that's where we want to see him," he said.
"We want to see him at the top of the game. He does so much for the game of golf. It was great for the greater aspect of the game.
"Him winning golf tournaments is something that's brilliant and I think we all benefit from it because in the end, whatever it is these 24 guys are going to do this week, the game of golf needs that boost of somebody like him that transcends the game to the masses, needs him at the top of the game.
"So for everyone in golf, it's brilliant."
Furyk doesn’t fear hostile reception in Paris
Captain Jim Furyk is not expecting a hostile reception when the United States attempt to retain the Ryder Cup with a first victory on European soil for 25 years.
Rory McIlroy bore the brunt of the heckling over the first two days of competition at Hazeltine in 2016, ultimately having to ask for one man to be removed after he hurled abuse at him during Saturday's afternoon fourballs.
American players and vice-captains attempted to maintain order during matches and messages were posted on scoreboards on the first tee asking spectators to report unruly behaviour to officials.
Furyk conceded a number of fans were "unruly" at Hazeltine but is not expecting to receive the same treatment at Le Golf National on the outskirts of Paris when the biennial contest gets under way on Friday.
"Do I think we're in for a hostile reception? No I don't," Furyk said in a joint press conference with Europe captain Thomas Bjorn. "There were some fans that were unruly at Hazeltine. We did the best we could to remove some of those fans.
"I think the majority of the fans were there cheering for their side and that's what I would expect to see. I've always admired the European crowd, the way that they band together and can be louder as one with the songs, the chants.
"I know they will be loud, they will be boisterous. That's definitely an obstacle. It's part of that home advantage that Europe will have this week and that's something my players have to respect but hopefully they enjoy. Hopefully they thrive on that."
The United States may be odds-on favourites after their 17-11 win at Hazeltine, but they have not won the Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993, a fact of which Furyk is all too aware.
"I started to be reminded about that the moment I took this opportunity as captain," added the 48-year-old, who played on losing teams in Europe in 1997, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014.
"Is it extra motivation? I'm not sure you really need extra motivation in a Ryder Cup. The guys are excited and anxious and it's been a thorn in their side since 1993. There's some veteran players that have never won on foreign soil and that's a part that's missing in their careers.
"It's not anything I need to mention in the team room. There's not like a big '25' sitting in there. They are well aware of how difficult it is to win in Europe and that's the battle we face this week."
One of those players to have experienced numerous defeats in Europe is Phil Mickelson, who finished last in the Tour Championship on Sunday on 13 over par.
Team-mates Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka also propped up the leaderboard and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth failed to qualify for the season-ending event, but Furyk insisted he has no concerns about his players.
"We also had a lot of players play very well last week," Furyk added. "In my career I've played very well in practice and had rough tournaments. I've had bad practice in some events and went on to win those same events.
"So last week is behind us. Of course everyone would like to be in good form but it's a different golf course, different venue, totally different type of golf tournament."
Tiger Woods admits he feared he’d never win again
Tiger Woods has admitted fearing he would never win another golf tournament due to his chronic back injuries.
Woods claimed the Tour Championship on Sunday for his first tournament win since August 2013, and his 80th PGA Tour title.
The 42-year-old languished as low as 1,199 in golf's world rankings less than a year ago following spinal fusion surgery, but completed a remarkable comeback in Atlanta at the weekend.
The 14-time major champion warmed up for this weekend's Ryder Cup in style, before conceding his injury woes had him worried he may never mount a credible return to the sport's summit.
"It means a lot more to me now in the sense because I didn't know if I'd ever be out here again playing – doing this again," said Woods.
"I don't know, 20 years ago, hell, I thought I was going to play for another 30 years. That's just the way golf is. You can play until you're 70 years old.
"You see these guys on the Champions Tour playing tournament golf at 70.
"Then there was a point in time I didn't know if I'd ever do this again.
"So yeah, I appreciate it a little bit more than I did because I don't take it for granted that I'm going to have another decade, two decades in my future of playing golf at this level."
Justin Rose pipped Woods to the overall FedEx Cup title, with the two men gearing up to face off when the Ryder Cup starts in Paris on Friday.
Woods underwent his third surgery in 19 months in April 2017 in a bid to cure pain in his back and leg, at that point fearing he may never be able to play golf again.
Asked whether the reaction to his victory might break the internet, Woods chose to poke fun at both his age and longevity.
"Well, when I came out here, there was no internet," joked Woods, in a nod to a career that kick-started with his 1997 US Masters triumph.
Chronicling his injury problems, Woods continued: "Probably the low point was not knowing if I'd ever be able to live pain-free again; am I going to be able to sit, stand, walk, lay down without feeling the pain that I was in.
"I just didn't want to live that way. This is how the rest of my life is going to be? It's going to be a tough rest of my life.
"And so, I was beyond playing. I couldn't sit. I couldn't walk. I couldn't lay down without feeling the pain in my back and my leg.
"That was a pretty low point for a very long time.
"So just to be able to compete and play again this year, that's a hell of a comeback.
"Some of the people that are very close to me, they've seen what I've gone through. Some of the players have seen what I've gone through, and they know how hard it was just to get back to playing golf again.
"Forget the elite level, just be able to play golf again and enjoy being with my kids and living that life.
"And then lo and behold, I'm able to do this and win a golf tournament.
"To be able to compete and play again, yes. To win, that's another level.
"I'm just enjoying being able to do this again. I didn't know I was going to do this again."
JP McManus donates €100,000 to every GAA county board
JP McManus has donated €100,000 to every Gaelic Games county board in Ireland to be divided equally among their local clubs.
The €3.2million gesture has been made on the back of Limerick’s All-Ireland Hurling Championship win this year
McManus has been a main sponsor of Limerick GAA for years and is heavily involved in sport, including horse racing and the upcoming JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor in July 2020.
A letter to each county board has said the intention is for the continued development of Gaelic Games in the country.
A spokeperson for the GAA has described it as "unprecedented" and an "incredible gesture".
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