In the most celebrated game between Hawthorn and Sydney, the 2012 grand final, Lance Franklin’s brilliance had made him influential, but his inaccuracy – 3.4 from eight or nine opportunities - made him a mixed blessing. The uncharitable view was that his errant left boot cost the Hawks the flag.
In Franklin’s first game in red and white against brown and gold, history threatened to repeat. Buddy was brilliant, he was slick and was winning the ball and even holding his marks. He was moving fluently, he was too powerful and quick for the opponents who rotated on him. He was aggressive, bowling over Jordan Lewis from the first bounce.
Unlike Dale Thomas, Buddy had brought his best game to his first encounter with his old team. But he couldn’t finish. Not until it was absolutely necessary. At the 15-minute mark of the second quarter, Franklin won a dubious free on the boundary just outside 50 metres. He played on instantly, ran that distinctive arc and sent a long shot that missed. Again. It was his sixth behind.
Few players in the game can generate as many shots in the congested game of 2014.
Only Travis Cloke could match Buddy for wasting hard-earned opportunities. Then, a minute or so after half-time, he outmarked Ben Stratton between the point and goal line and botched the banana. That made it 0.7 from seven attempts; none were easy, but he should have nailed a few.
At this point, we sensed that Franklin had developed some yips. This was seemingly confirmed later in the third quarter, when he again found found space and marked within range. This time, Buddy attempted to lay off a pass to Sam Reid and was intercepted by Taylor Duryea.
But you also guessed that if Buddy could actually kick a goal, he might kick another. So it proved. When Franklin slotted a tricky shot from 45 metres in the last quarter, he regained a lead that the Swans ought never to have lost.
Then, a few minutes later, Buddy produced one of those freakish goals, the kind that prompted the Swans to take leave of their dollars and senses and hand him a nine-year deal – he was slung in a tackle, yet managed to get boot to ball. He didn’t think. He just did. The Swans had a lead of two kicks.
While Buddy botched his shots and kept the contest close, Kurt Tippett took his chances, in part because he’d played to his Tarzan strengths against a small Hawthorn defence and marked closer to goal.
Tippett booted four goals in three quarters. Sydney’s new giant attack gave the Hawks grief, but not enough to kill the Hawthorn cockroach. After a terrible first quarter, Hawthorn’s effort to work itself back, regain the ascendancy and then remain in the running was tremendous, given the roll-call of injuries and players absent.
No Luke Hodge, who withdrew, with hamstring soreness. No Sam Mitchell. Cyril Rioli, too, was out of the game, with an apparent hamstring twang, in the first minute after half-time.
In their absence, Shaun Burgoyne asserted himself in the third quarter.
To compound the drama, Hawthorn’s other superstar, Jarryd Roughead had bumped ex-teammate Ben McGlynn high, in an early third-quarter collision that will surely see Roughie rubbed out.
Roughead was beaten for much of the evening, but did slot two goals in the last quarter that were responses to Buddy’s crucial two-goal spurt. Franklin’s first opponent was Josh Gibson, his closest friend from the Hawks.
But Franklin would be matched to others, including Kyle Cheney and Ryan Schoenmakers.
Buddy began the game by charging into the centre square at the opening bounce and bumping – very legitimately – another old mate, Lewis, who sprang instantly to his feet.
Franklin played his part, but his role should not be overrated. Dan Hannebery and another former Hawk, Josh Kennedy, were really the major architects, and while Buddy had his moments, it was Hannebery’s opening half – particularly a ballistic first term – that put the Swans in a pole position.
Franklin had been wasteful, yet he had elevated himself to something approaching his brown and gold version. On a night when his old team fought and couldn’t overcome the combination of a sluggish start and lost personnel, he finished badly, then finished well.
And 2.7 in a winning side beats 3.4 in a losing grand final.