Lance Franklin’s leadership of Sydney’s young and inexperienced AFL forward line is earning plenty of gratitude from his eager apprentices.
At age 29 and with 241 games and 773 goals to his name Franklin is far and away the most senior and proven member of the second-placed Swans’ forward half.
He has more games and goals combined than all of the other regular members of the Swans’ attack, most of whom are not specialist forwards.
That list includes a trio of 20-year-olds in first-year seniors Tom Papley (14 games, 19 goals) and George Hewett (18, 13) and second-year star Isaac Heeney (32, 40).
Xavier Richards, 23 (6, 9) has been another recent youthful addition to the attack end, with Gary Rohan 25, (73, 57) adding x factor impact to the forward line.
All have benefited from the towering presence of Franklin, who is second in the Coleman Medal race on 70 goals, three behind West Coast spearhead Josh Kennedy.
Hewett says Franklin’s influence extends well beyond hitting the scoreboard.
“He’s a very talented player, but I just think his leadership has been huge this year, especially because we’ve got such a young forward line,” Hewett said.
“He’s been massive in that perspective and he’s been really good this year.”
Franklin has volunteered advice as well as being asked for tips from his young accomplices.
“He’s been very good to us young boys and especially to me,” Hewett said.
“He’s probably the best bloke to give you information because he’s done it all, so he’s been awesome.
“He’s given me more on-field support, which is keeping it simple and just be consistent.”
Hewett is still learning his craft as a forward having been recruited by Sydney as a midfielder.
“As a forward you’ve got to earn the footy a bit more. You’ve got to do a lot more running for your touches,” Hewett said.
Another recent convert to the forward line is Richards, the younger brother of retiring fullback Ted Richards, who has kicked nine goals in four games this season, after playing primarily as a defender until mid-season.
“He (Xavier Richards) is quite fit and quick and he brings that element of surprise as well,” Hewett said.
Hewett is one of seven Swans debutants this season, but he pointed out some like defenders Zak Jones, Allir Allir and himself were all in their third year at the club.
“We’ve all had to do a mini apprenticeship in the reserves,” Hewett said.
“You have to work hard and earn your spot and once you do you feel confident playing senior footy.”
He is poised this weekend to play his first game in Tasmania against a North Melbourne side including Brent Harvey, who made his debut before Hewett turned one-year-old.