Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson is delighted that Lance Franklin is dominating the AFL.
It’s a statement you might have expected from Clarkson in the first 182 games of Franklin’s career, when he made the unbelievable seem remarkably easy and helped deliver the Hawks two premierships.
Not so much as Franklin prepares to face Hawthorn for the sixth time, having shifted to Sydney on a nine-year contract at the end of the 2013 season.
But in a week that has hammered home the importance of health, Clarkson is genuinely thrilled to see Franklin fit and firing.
A mental health condition forced Franklin to take a break from football in 2015, when he missed the Swans’ straight-sets exit from the finals.
The superstar is now back to his best, leads the Coleman medal race with 39 goals and looms as the man most likely to spoil Hawthorn’s hopes of victory at the MCG on Friday night.
“He’s been in fabulous form and it’s good to see. He went through a battle of his own in the off-season,” Clarkson said on Thursday, having spoken at length about Jarryd Roughead’s cancer diagnosis.
“And that’ll probably be ongoing for a time as well.
“So it’s good to see him playing good footy again, we’re really pleased with that. We just hope he doesn’t play too well tomorrow night.”
Franklin’s record against his former club is not as fearsome as his overall average of 3.23 goals a game.
The 29-year-old has managed 12 goals from five matches against the Hawks, winning two of them.
But Franklin has never been in such strong form at Sydney, and Clarkson knows all too well how capable he is of single-handedly busting a game open.
“We know Bud pretty well. That doesn’t always mean we get it right when we play against them,” the four-time premiership coach said.
“He’s such a beacon. He’s such a good player … so many times he delivers.
“They’re winning games of footy and they’re playing a really potent brand.”
Clarkson suggested the key to stopping Franklin – and winning the crunch clash which will shape the top four – was to shut down the Swans’ engine room.
“They’ve been averaging more inside-50s than any team in the competition. If he gets a lot of supply it might be tough for us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cyril Rioli will return for the Hawks, having missed their last-start win over Fremantle after travelling to the Northern Territory for family reasons.