Mixed bag: Lance Franklin is having a frustrating season.

Mixed bag: Lance Franklin is having a frustrating season. Photo: Getty Images

ANALYSIS

LANCE Franklin is many things, and beloved by the masses. But not necessarily by the umpires.

Franklin is not merely the king of conceding free kicks, he is the undisputed champion of the AFL's bad boys. Champion Data statistics from the period 2008-2012 have the Hawthorn superstar conceding 209 free kicks, which is more than 50 ahead of the second-placed Darren Jolly, a gulf in football terms.

He equalled the all-time record for a single game with seven frees against in round four against West Coast, and the infringements keep coming in a torrent. Many of them - and this is instructive - come for pushes in the back, which number 68, more than 20 ahead of the nearest player in that category (Dean Cox at 46) in the same period.

He is also the most prolific player of the past five years when it comes to 50-metre penalties conceded. Champion has him at 26 for the period, with only St Kilda' Justin Koschitzke (23) close of players still in the game.

All of which is worth noting only in the sense that for an all-time great player, one of the best centre half-forwards ever to have played the game, Franklin is flawed. As has been noted by all the game's most astute observers, he is not the pack-marking power forward that, say, Travis Cloke is.

In fact, for an all-time great centre half-forward he takes very few big overhead marks.

He prefers to work his opponent under the ball and then beat them out the back with his great pace.

He is far from alone in this; in the modern era many tall forwards complain that they have no space to lead into because of the oppositions' forward presses.

In fact, they are required to lead back rather than forward, changing the character of the game from what it was for 100 years.

Often, Franklin pushes to get an advantage, and is nailed by the umpires. The numbers show Franklin to be good, but not great, in the aerial contest, but that he has worked on it. He is ranked third in the league in contested marks inside 50 metres this season with 13, behind Cloke (15) and Kurt Tippett (14). In all zones, he is tied-fifth with 18. Cloke and Tippett (25) lead that category.

Then there is his kicking, such a source of annoyance for Hawthorn supporters. Franklin has never been much more than a 50-50 prospect in front of the sticks; he had more than 200 shots at goal in his superb 2008 season.

This year he has kicked 21.36, his least accurate return, and it poses the question: if he'd kicked 36.21 would observers be calling it one of his best seasons?

Would we have the current debate about whether he should be playing closer to goal, one that has filled the airwaves this week? Probably not. But as things stand, he is perceived as having a so-so year.

The reality is he is finding plenty of the football, but missing too many. It has got to him and, on the weekend, he made a series of poor decisions with the ball, missing free opponents inside him. Coach Al Clarkson urged him to persevere. ''It didn't work for him or us today, but we'll hang in there, because over the journey he's been able to show that he's a pretty formidable player,'' said Clarkson, and he is right, of course.

A certain perspective needs to be kept.

Franklin's traits only make him better to watch. He will give you moments of majesty, uplifting moments such as his two running goals against Essendon in 2010, efforts that will be remembered forever.

And then some moments of madness, too.