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I predict tears. Many tears before bedtime . . .
Buddy Franklin heading for the Swans
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Buddy Franklin heading for the Swans
The GWS Giants have withdrawn their bid for Lance Franklin with the knowledge he will accept an offer from the Sydney Swans.
No, wait, that is too oblique, so let me start again.
Prima facie the Buddy Franklin move to the Sydney Swans seems fraught with difficulties and ...
And hang on, that is too earnest. How 'bout this then ..?
HAVE THE SWANS GOT FREAKING ROCKS IN THEIR HEAD?
Yes, friends, that is the question. It is not simply the staggering numbers involved – a breathtaking $10 million over nine years to get the Hawthorn star to up stumps and come north – though we will get to that.
The first and most obvious thing, as has been frequently commented on in the last 24 hours, is that the whole schtick of the Swans for the past decade has been their “No Dickheads” selectorial policy, and it is for this reason that they are inarguably Sydney's most beloved team. They have won, and won well through a combination of hard work, great talent modestly presented, and an ethos of "the team comes first".
And right into the middle of that superb and demonstrably successful culture over the past decade, you place Buddy Franklin himself for the NEXT decade? This is not to say that Franklin is a dickhead per se, and indeed I am informed via Twitter by my southern star colleague, Greg Baum, that the full forward – whatever that is – has matured a great deal in the past few years.
But against that, if you called Central Casting and said, “Send me over a prime dickhead,” and Buddy Franklin turned up the way he was on the Sunday after the Grand Final – a tower of swaggering sneer and staggering hubris – you would hardly be inclined to ask for your money back?
Look, the fact that Franklin signed up with the Swans - as opposed to the GWS Giants on a shorter-term and less overall lucrative deal - is hardly surprising.
To begin with, Franklin looks far more like a man who will gravitate to The Ivy on George St, rather than the famed Rooty Hill RSL, so why not live close by? And why not play with a team might actually win the Premiership, than one who has got the past two wooden spoons?
Of course he would grab at it.
But here is the most obvious problem with the whole thing for the Swans.
When clubs and players sign long-term deals they are both making a bet. The club bets the player that in the final years of the contract, the player is actually going to be worth more than the figure agreed to at the time of the signing. And the player is making a bet that they will actually be worth less, so it is in their interests to sign now.
Me? I reckon Buddy will win the bet. He will be 27 years old at the first bounce next season, and 36 at the last bounce of 2022.
Who remembers a player ever losing a bet like that, particularly a bet with such a long-term contract? As a matter of fact, does anyone remember a contract of a near-decade duration ever being given to an Australian sportsman, let alone one in his late 20s?
Champion players, always looking for an edge, live on that edge. They push themselves to that edge, to get their last squeak of performance out. But with this contract, Franklin is set for life, and surely as comfortable as he has ever been. Who needs an edge, now?
Yes, he has prospered to this point because of his extraordinary talent, but he is now at an age where the only way to stay even close to the height of his powers is to work harder than he ever has. And what will be his reward for so doing? There is no major financial incentive – that is locked down already. Perhaps for the love of the Swans, then? He doesn't love the Swans, he loves Hawthorn, with whom he has been his whole adult life. He has been seduced by the Swans, and there is a big difference.
Perhaps then, he will work harder than ever for the Swans, simply because that is the honourable thing to do under the circumstances, and that when he is 36 years old, he will be training the house down, to get the last gasp of energy from his body, so as to fully deserve the staggering salary he will be being paid. All for the honour of it.
I certainly hope so. But I wouldn't bet a million dollars on it. And nor, if I was the Swans, would I be putting that enormous amount of money on just one player for such a length of time, inevitably meaning that the rest of their recruits for years to come will be of a far more modest nature.
And yes, thanks, I also get it that the other part of the Swans' bet is that by structuring the deal this way, their key is to get Franklin now, while a fair chunk of his pay can be given to him down the track, so they don't breach the salary cap.
But again, I put it to you: the lesson of Australian sport is that quick fixes with huge splashes of money rarely work. Rather, the Swans themselves have been at the forefront of the notion that long-term success usually comes from painstaking long-term work, building a culture where the premium is placed on performance above all else, and the money stuff comes later.
And now they do this.
I predict tears. Many tears before bedtime ...
Not the beginning. But the beginning of the end.