As one would expect with any great of the game, Lance Franklin has tormented every opposition club at some stage of his storied 301-game career. But there is no club with which he has toyed more than Essendon, against whom he has kicked 70 goals in 16 games, more than any of the AFL’s 17 other clubs.
So it is just the Bombers’ luck then that Franklin, having been rested from Sydney’s round two win over Richmond, returns to play for the Swans in Thursday night’s round four opener at the SCG.
Lance Franklin has a tremendous record against Essendon.Credit:Getty
To be fair, Franklin had more success against the Bombers during his Hawthorn days than he has against the Dons since becoming a Swan at the end of 2013.
When playing for the Hawks, Franklin booted 50 goals from his 10 matches against Essendon. That’s tailed off somewhat in the Harbour City, with Franklin kicking 20 goals in six matches against the Bombers since the move, at still more than three per game.
In any case, Franklin remains a focus and a key danger for any opposition, even at 34.
Not that the Swans have been overly reliant on Franklin so far in 2021. To the contrary, they knocked off flag fancies the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba and thrashed reigning premiers Richmond at the MCG in Franklin’s absence.
Historically Cale Hooker has battled – often in vain – against Franklin, but the veteran Bomber booted five goals against St Kilda on Saturday and Dons coach Ben Rutten said Hooker would remain forward for the time being, with Peter Wright to play in the ruck in the absence of the injured Sam Draper.
“He will stay forward,” Rutten said of Hooker.
“He’s been hitting the scoreboard well but the most pleasing thing with Cale’s game is he’s been competing really hard and he’s been connecting with his forwards. He didn’t train there all pre-season so he’s still learning a little bit of some timing stuff and positioning, but he’s getting better all the time.”
Rutten was not readily giving away who would play on Franklin. Brandon Zerk-Thatcher returned against the Saints. He could conceivably take Franklin, allowing reigning best and fairest winner Jordan Ridley and Aaron Francis more scope to play intercept roles.
“We’ll prep for him to be in there,” Rutten said of Franklin.
“I think what we’re seeing more and more with Sydney, and most teams, is they’re not a one-dimensional footy club. They’re not solely reliant on Buddy playing for them to be a good team, so we’ll certainly pay the respect that we need to for Buddy but understand there’s a bigger job at hand.”
Dons captain Dyson Heppell has missed consecutive games with a back complaint but Rutten said the skipper was on track to confront the Swans.
Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (right)Credit:Getty Images
“Yeah he is. So he’s been improving all the time, he’ll train today and if he gets through that fine, he’ll be available for selection,” Rutten said.
“If he plays, he’ll play AFL.”
David Zaharakis is also available again after an interrupted pre-season but is no guarantee to return to a winning side.
With Draper, Jye Caldwell and Dylan Shiel among those sidelined, Rutten said there were clear silver linings, as shown by the performances of several youngsters against the Saints.
“It’s disappointing when you get injuries but it does give an opportunity to guys and we’ll be better for that, there’s no doubt about that,” Rutten said.
“It’s been great – guys have stood up.”
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