Whether or not Dan Hannebery has been on a problematic Lance Franklin-led path, and whether or not club great Ryan O’Keefe had words - or worse - with Franklin at a recent training session, the point is that such rumours are in the news and the key word is “Buddy”.
Both stories are emphatically denied by Sydney. But that's pretty much irrelevant. The bigger story is whether the focus on Franklin will be a help or hindrance to John Longmire’s men over time. It's all happened pretty quickly. But it's not as though the Swans weren't expecting this. They knew they were entering territory they hadn't been in since the signing of the headline-grabbing Barry Hall in 2002, if not the leviathan Tony Lockett seven years earlier. They signed the modern game’s highest-profile player, with all his considerable baggage, and they locked him in for the long haul.
Having a good sense of what comes with the package probably explains why there is so much discomfort at the club about these latest stories. Staff feel it’s no surprise the tales emanated from Melbourne. There are some in Bleak City who haven’t come to terms with the fact that Franklin left the goldfish bowl to play out his career at the Swans, just like there are many in Adelaide who can't stand the Kurt Tippett deal.
The well of goodwill towards the Swans has been drying and the club is no longer out to make friends. With the acquisitions of Franklin and Tippett, the moniker as everyone’s second-favourite team has been replaced by the reality that any slip-up by the club, especially by Franklin, will be seized upon henceforth. And where there are no flames, there will be some people furiously rubbing sticks together.
There is also a niggling feeling at Moore Park that their cross-town opponents are being mischievous. The Giants genuinely feel better off without Franklin eating up a big chunk of their budget (it’s hard to even think of him in orange and grey now) but clearly, judging by some recent comments, there is resentment at GWS about being left at the altar by the player, his manager and the Swans.
“When I see Buddy run out there I’ll be happy because we’ll have him playing in two of our games this season without paying him a dollar,” Giants godfather Kevin Sheedy said before the season opener. Other comments off the record, from both sides, have been far nastier than that.
Private animosity boiled over and the gloves came off when GWS provocatively backed stripping Sydney of the Cost Of Living Allowance while arguing they should keep it because they were a developing club. The Giants then seethed that Franklin wasn’t made available for a pre-match press conference, attended by Andrew Demetriou, among others. The Giants had designs on a sold-out Spotless Stadium for the match.
The Giants fought hard to build a rivalry and got what it wanted. They then consummated the hate, unforgettably, with a 32-point win in which they kept the signing-of-the-century to 1.1.
Had the Swans kicked straighter, taken the many opportunties they created, particularly in the first half, and beaten the Giants, there would have been less kindling for the spot fires about Franklin that have since emerged, wherever they came from.
“There’s some media that have clearly tried to get stuff on him early,” someone associated with the Franklin signing said. “But that’s going to happen wherever he goes. We're confident that once he settles in and the season gets going, the focus will be more on his football.”
With their next game more than a week away, against Collingwood, don’t be surprised if more stories emerge about Buddy troubles at the Swans. Because the Swans certainly won’t be.