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Giants launch 'operation get Buddy'

Lance Franklin of the Hawks is a free agent at the end of the year.

Lance Franklin of the Hawks is a free agent at the end of the year. Photo: Michael Dodge

Greater Western Sydney has two big weapons in the battle to lure Hawthorn star Lance ''Buddy'' Franklin away from the club where he won an AFL premiership.

Giants coach-in-waiting Leon Cameron spent the past two years as an assistant coach with the Hawks and full-back Stephen Gilham played in the triumphant 2008 grand final with Franklin.

If the Giants decide to go after Franklin, who has put contract talks with the Hawks on hold until the end of the season, both Cameron and Gilham will play a role in trying to bring him north.

Former Hawk Stephen Gilham could help lure Franklin to the Giants.

Former Hawk Stephen Gilham could help lure Franklin to the Giants. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

GWS coach Kevin Sheedy has already said the Giants should go after the Hawk and he was worth $1.3 million a year.

Gilham will make his Giants debut and bring up his 100th AFL game when he plays cross-town rivals the Swans at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.

He played one game in three years with Port Adelaide before adding a further 98 with Hawthorn, most of them with Franklin.

The 28-year-old is loving the lifestyle in Sydney and has already let his former teammate know what to expect in the Harbour City.

''I couldn't encourage him enough, Bud would love it up here I reckon, just get away from Melbourne and the pressure and not be as recognised,'' Gilham said.

''I've had a couple of chats with him and he's indicated he'd love to come up, so fingers crossed,'' he added with his tongue planted in his cheek.

Cameron will take over from Sheedy as head coach of the Giants next year and played a huge part in recruiting Gilham.

Injury cruelled Gilham's final two years at Hawthorn after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 2011.

He then strained a quad during last year's finals series and missed the grand final loss to Sydney as a result.

''Leon played a massive role, he got the job [with the Giants] and gave me a call straight away,'' Gilham said.

''We had a good relationship at Hawthorn for the two years that he was there.

''Obviously no player who's had some success [at a club wants to leave], and I'm a Melbourne boy. I was pretty happy living and working there, but as things change in your career and with the game at the moment, GWS were looking to get a couple more experienced players on their list.

''I had a chat to [Hawthorn coach] Alastair [Clarkson] and it just seemed like a natural progression.''

It's taken Gilham 10 years to get to the 100 mark and he spent almost two seasons stuck in the ''nervous nineties'' after doing his knee.

He struggled to break into the Port Adelaide line-up before the Hawks brought him to Melbourne to form part of a premiership defence with Trent Croad.

One regret Gilham had about leaving Hawthorn was not playing 100 games for the club that kick-started his AFL career.

But with Hawthorn recruiting Brian Lake as a key defender, Gilham opted to travel up the Hume Highway for a fresh start.

While his contract was just for 2013, he hoped to spend at least another ''two or three'' years with the Giants.

It's not just his postcode that's changed, but his motivation as well.

For so long Gilham was trying to prove himself as an AFL footballer - now he wants to help his young teammates.

The self-confessed ''big kid'' said they were helping him to feel younger.

''I just love playing the game, love being involved in the team environment and initially it was personal and individual - just to play, to get games - and then you just re-establish your goals from there,'' Gilham said.

''Obviously to taste premiership success, that's what it's all about, but now it's helping younger guys come through.''

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