Lance Franklin battles Geelong's Tom Lonergan.
Warwick Capper was a very good forward for Sydney in the mid-1980s and was its leading goalkicker from 1984 to ’87. In 1987 he kicked 103 goals to become only the second Swans player to achieve that feat. The great Bob Pratt kicked more than 100 goals for the Swans (then South Melbourne) in each of 1933, ’34 and ’35.
But at the end of ’87, ‘‘The Wiz’’ took the money and ran. He headed north to the Gold Coast and became a Brisbane Bear. It was a disastrous career move.
Capper left a top-four team that was coached by Tom Hafey. The small SCG suited him as the likes of Gerard Healy, Greg Williams and Barry Mitchell could hit him with bullet-like passes from the midfield.
On top of that, Mark Bayes and Mark Browning would unload their long left-foot bombs from the half-back line to allow Capper to fly for the screamers he excelled at. The quantity and quality of ball coming into Capper gave him every chance to shine.
Not so with the Bears. The Carrara ground was much bigger, and the ball came to Capper in a slower, sloppier and less frequent fashion.
So, in his three years as a Bear, Capper’s stocks fell. He averaged just 24 goals a season and, at the age of 27, his career was effectively over.
It’s a true story that Lance Franklin should be aware of as he ponders a move to Greater Western Sydney.
Watch ‘‘Buddy’’ play and his sole focus is to score. He would kill for a goal. That’s what excites him. That’s how he measures his worth. Often, he is selfish in his desire to let fly at goals. But that’s not such a bad fault. He has been the Hawks’ leading goalkicker for the past six seasons.
He is eight goals behind Jarryd Roughead this season, and although he wouldn’t admit it, will be desperate to secure a seventh award.
Last Friday night, Franklin lit up the stage and kicked eight goals against Essendon. The strut was back and most pundits gave him the three votes.
But Franklin, 26, should look very closely at how he got his haul. The first came in a contested mark against his opponent Jake Carlisle. Good. But the next seven were softies. Three were handball receives, and four were from short passes that hit him on the chest. His principal suppliers were Roughead, Sam Mitchell and Cyril Rioli.
Of course, Franklin had to position himself, and a couple of his kick-on-the-curve left-footers from 50 metres were beauties. But the bottom line is, the supply was A-grade.
The Hawks average 15 marks inside their forward-50 a game – No.1 in the AFL – with an average of 57 entries. But Greater Western Sydney is ranked last, with just seven marks a game from an average of 40 entries.
These are facts and figures that the man who delights in kicking goals should consider.
It would be much harder for Franklin to star, going from a very good team to a poor team, than it was for Gary Ablett.
Why? Because Ablett, as a midfielder, can put himself wherever the ball is. Franklin, as a forward, can’t. As Jack Dyer used to say: “It’s no good being where the ball ain’t.”
And the Giants should seriously consider whether Franklin is needed. The Giants already have a gun key forward in Jeremy Cameron. The 20-year-old kicked seven goals out of his team’s 10 last week against Collingwood. That took his season tally to 50. It’s a remarkable effort for a young man playing for a team that has yet to win a game. Could he win the Coleman Medal?
Sadly, another young big forward in Jonathon Patton has gone down injured. But the former No.1 draft pick will be back next year. It gives the Giants the two power forwards they need. Plus, it’s nice to grow your own, as the Brisbane Lions and Geelong did for their trio of premierships.
Realistically, the priority for Greater Western Sydney is to strengthen its back line. The Giants desperately need some quality tall defenders.
Former Carlton players Bret Thornton and Setanta O’hAilpin aren’t up to it. Chad Cornes has been forced into retirement, Tim Mohr tries hard but isn’t the answer, and Phil Davis disappoints. Surely after four years in the system he can show some muscle definition. He needs to get to work.
As it stands, the average score against the Giants is a whopping 136 points a game. Compare that with Fremantle’s 70.
Having the No.1 pick in this year’s draft, I think GWS should forget Franklin and think how it can use it to get quality height in defence.
And forget the Franklin marketing angle. It’s not something he enjoys and when you have got Cameron, a young midfield gun in Dylan Shiel and a terrific captain in Callan Ward, the Giants should promote what’s in their own backyard.
On Saturday, Franklin will step on to the MCG in front of a big crowd against Richmond. At the same time, the Giants will be playing Melbourne at Skoda Stadium, where there might be 6000 in attendance.
Just where do you think he would rather be? So it’s very much a case of Buddy and buyer beware.
I think it will be a win-win situation if Franklin stays a Hawk and the Giants show patience, promote their own, and use their prized No.1 draft pick wisely.