Jack Darling on right path to sit alongside Lance Franklin

Jack Darling on right path to sit alongside Lance Franklin

Does West Coast’s key forward Jack Darling have the ability to impact on a game as much as Lance Franklin has done?

Some might say he already is.

The young Eagle is enjoying his first season running through the midfield and early indications are that he is perfectly suited to the role.

And he can still take big marks and kick important goals – lots of them. He’s booted 130 goals in his first 73 AFL games.

His statistics in those 73 games are comparable to some modern day greats, including Jonathan Brown and Wayne Carey.

Now he has added running capacity to his game. At the start of the 2014 season he is earning four possessions per game higher than his career average.


And he’s durable. He has hardly missed a game since the Eagles stole him at pick number 26 in the 2010 AFL national draft.

“I have been pretty lucky with injuries my whole career,” he said. “So I have always been able to keep the same fitness.”

In the first five rounds of the 2014 season, Darling's statistics have been more impressive than Franklin's.

Darling, 21, is averaging 15.8 possessions a game, 5.6 marks and 3.6 tackles, and has kicked 11.10.

He attacked the game against Port Adelaide on Saturday night with the same intensity that Franklin has often shown in his 187 AFL games.

Franklin has averaged 14.6 disposals, five marks and three tackles, and kicked 11.7 in his first five games with Sydney.

And Darling admits he still has a lot to learn playing in the unfamiliar role.

“It's obviously my first year having a go through the midfield,” he said.

“I'm not going to make a great impact straight away. But if I play 20-30 games in there then hopefully I can get on the end of a few.”

On Saturday night against Port, with Luke Shuey, Matt Rosa and Chris Masten back in the side, he played mainly in attack.

But it looks a natural thing for him to push further up the ground. And he can afford to do so with Josh Kennedy still posing a threat inside their attacking 50.

Darling had 19 possessions, took eight marks and led the game for inside 50 entries with eight against Power, and he kicked 2.3. Kennedy booted 1.5 from his 14 disposals.

Not that Franklin, 27, is a spent force just yet. The champ had 17 touches and took eight marks in Sydney’s 17-point win over Fremantle on the weekend. And he also impacted on the scoreboard, kicking 4.2.

But if Darling can continue his progress at the same rate, Franklin may have to hand over the baton to him sooner than the Swans would have liked.

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