How Lance Franklin’s sensational 2016 stacks up against the rest of his career
LANCE Franklin’s start to the season has been nothing short of awesome.
A model of consistency, the talismanic 29-year-old kicked four goals in each of the first four rounds, before kicking two majors against the Eagles, five against the Lions and six against the Bombers.
It’s a stunning return to form given Franklin’s injury concerns at the end of last season, which were only further compounded by news he was suffering from a mental health condition.
But Franklin’s return has been one of epic proportions, with bombs from 65 metres, the boundary line and everywhere in between confirming he’s back to his best.
Ominously, Franklin’s 29 goals after seven rounds of footy is his best start to the season since 2008 — the same year he went on to kick 100 goals.
At the same stage of that season, Franklin was sitting on 35 goals, with a bag of eight majors against the Lions in Round 5 helping his cause.
As the only current player in the competition to reach the magical 100, Kurt Tippett says his teammate is on track to achieve that same feat again.
“He’s in great form, he’s really enjoying his football,” he said.
“He’s really focused. I don’t think there’s a limit on how many goals he can kick this year, which is exciting.”
But how does this commanding run of form stack up to the rest of Buddy’s career?
In short, pretty darn well.
While Franklin is averaging fewer ranking points than in 2008 and 2012, he is averaging more kicks (13.4) and disposals (18.6) per game than he has in any season.
But the most compelling figure rests with Buddy’s inside 50 count. After seven rounds, he has gone inside 50 a staggering 40 times — which is 15 times more than at this stage in his next best season in 2015.
Not only has Franklin kicked more goals than any other play this season, but he’s also helping penetrate the Swans’ forward 50 better than he’s ever done in his career — at Sydney and Hawthorn.
It’s an area of Buddy’s game that goes largely unnoticed, given his highlights reel that shows him kicking the impossible ad nauseam.
But one that manifests Franklin is not only experiencing one of his best purple patches to date, but adding another string to his bow, much to the delight of his teammates.
“Right now he’s in a really good spot, he seems really comfortable within himself,” Tippett said.
“He seems happy and really focused and is playing a great role for the side so he’s in great shape.”
Franklin’s admission that he was suffering from a mental health condition sent shock waves through the AFL community, as one of its most deified figures was reduced to a mere mortal.
The finals were deprived of a little bit of magic. The Swans of their champion.
Such is his stature, Buddy’s return was always going to be championed, but the manner in which he has so seamlessly taken the competition by the stranglehold has been surprising.
We wanted it to happen, but we weren’t sure if it was possible, nor fair to place a burden so heavy on the shoulders of someone who had become so vulnerable.
But if 2016 has confirmed anything it’s that Buddy is back and – depending on how you look at things – better than ever.
BUDDY BY THE NUMBERS
2016 (Rounds 1 – 7)
Goals: 29, average 4.1
Disposals: 130, average 18.6
More inside 50s
2008 (Rounds 1 – 7)
Goals: 35, average 5
Disposals: 104, average 14.86
Higher ranking points