Lance Franklin is exerting considerable influence on Sydney’s push for an AFL premiership, even if you disregard his incredible deeds on the field.
Franklin looms as a potential match-winner in the Swans’ preliminary final against Geelong at the MCG on Friday night.
The 29-year-old, who missed the club’s straight-sets exit last September because of a mental-health condition, was among the minor premiers’ best players in both finals over the past fortnight.
Franklin has booted 78 goals this year but his guidance has also boosted Sydney.
Xavier Richards is a prime example.
Richards managed two AFL games in his first three seasons at the SCG, having been starved of opportunities by a settled back six.
The defender was thrown forward earlier this year in the NEAFL and hasn’t looked back, playing the past eight AFL games.
That run includes a strong showing in last weekend’s semi-final, when he booted two goals and dished off another three in a 36-point win over Adelaide.
Richards says the mentorship of Franklin has been instrumental in helping him adjust to life at the other end of the ground.
“Buddy has been super. He’s a very intelligent footballer, he really understands the game,” Richards told AAP.
“He’s been really good, telling me about leading patterns and some little tricks that I never knew before.
“He’ll speak up in meetings, help during games and while we’re training. He’s a real leader in our forward line, we’ve got some young players and he really mentors a lot of us.”
Young guns Isaac Heeney, Tom Papley and George Hewett have expressed similar sentiments about Franklin this year.
Older brother Ted, who will retire at the end of this season, has been another sounding board for Richards in his first AFL finals campaign. “He just told me don’t over-think it,” Xavier Richards said.
“He reminds me I’m a good athlete. I’m fit, fast and have a lot of good assets and these guys (opposition defenders) aren’t amazing. They’re no better than Dane Rampe or Heath Grundy, who I play on at training.”
Ted Richards hasn’t played AFL since round 17 but was listed as an emergency last weekend.
“I’d love to play with Ted before he retires. It’d be cool but if it doesn’t happen then it’s not the end of the world,” Xavier Richards said.
The Swans’ forward line for Friday night is far from settled, with Gary Rohan (leg) and Kurt Tippett (broken jaw) both racing the clock as they bid to prove their fitness.
Rohan and Tippett will need to train well on Wednesday to convince coach John Longmire they warrant selection in the high-stakes clash.