12 June, 2013.
By Justin Falconer.
“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.” Bob Dylan
Peeling back a previously ironed-on, but now worn out number from the back of a favourite team’s guernsey can be a considerably traumatic experience for a child. In some cases even for an adult.
As a boy I recall tearfully removing the gone but not forgotten Trent Croad’s digits from my prized and heavily signatured brown and gold Hawthorn strip.
I remembered thinking it wasn’t fair that my favourite player didn’t want to play for the Hawks anymore. I turned my attention, and jumper number to that of Nathan Thompson. He left the following year.
Bob Dylan had better things to worry about in 1964 than the direction of sport in Australia and one assumes he has taken little notice of the thunderous introduction of the AFL’s two newest participants either.
But even before we have seen the Suns shine and the Giants become a footballing ‘Goliath’, their impact on the league, its players and its supporters has been profound.
How the ‘new kids on the block’ would field a team became a problem for every football fan. There were always to be winners and losers, but this could not slow down the possibility for wider progress through expansions.
Players who were lacking in game time could seek opportunities elsewhere. Those looking to cash in and carry a brigade of talent-laden youngsters on their shoulders could expect much more pocket money.
Gary Ablett Jr’s eventual defection at the end of 2010, from arguably the second best side of the last two decades to a non-contender, was a long running saga to say the least. Tom Scully departed Melbourne in 2011, after an intensely scrutinised year, with unproven potential.
Travis Cloke was the man in demand last season, only to stay at Collingwood as both his form and that of his side deteriorated the longer people asked “will he or won’t he?”.
But 2013 has so far been about the future of one of the greats of the game both now and of all time, in Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin. His contract with Hawthorn is no more at the end of this season and speculation about his future is rife. He is said to be disoriented with the celebrity lifestyle that comes with living in Melbourne, while the lure of heading home to Western Australia is strong.
The AFL is tireless in its attempt to provide fairness for all clubs, from who can have the Brownlow medallist to who can have the best boot strapper. Without fairness in competition, integrity is lost.
Enter the heavily scrutinised salary cap, ensuring clubs can afford the same number of good players. But not too many, unless of course your home ground is in Sydney and you’ve a desperate need for a key forward.
Buddy Franklin is faced with a life-changing decision, one which he will not preside over until seasons’ end. Either stay at a club which has fostered his career and life as a young adult, or triple his income as the jewel in a crown fit for a premiership king in a few years’ time.
Hawthorn cannot compete with the figure. They have the option of matching the highest bid put to Franklin’s management as he is a ‘restricted free agent’. The Hawks however, will not entertain this amount. President Andrew Newbold’s time is spent better elsewhere than crunching those numbers.
The Hawks’ only hope of retaining the latest great number 23 of their history is if Franklin wants to be there. The times they are a changin’, and now more than ever the ball is in the players’ court.
How much is premiership success worth?
It is naïve to focus on the fact that one of the great power forwards of all time should decide to suit up in orange next year, because he is worth more than his current club can pay him.
Geelong has tasted premiership glory three times in the past seven seasons. A fourth serving looms.
The bulk of their champion squad are playing for wages well below what their ability dictates. The Chapmans, Johnsons, Selwoods, Coreys and Taylors of this world are under no illusions as to the coin they can fetch elsewhere. But the best sides take pay cuts for success.
Hawthorn finds itself in a similar predicament. Mitchell, Hodge, Rioli, Roughead, Sewell or Gibson would hardly struggle to double, or even triple what the Hawks can offer them collectively. Of this core group, the last to put pen to paper is Lance Franklin.
Perhaps perceived peer pressure and the lure of imminent success will push Buddy to see money won’t necessarily buy him his next flag. Or perhaps the astute businessman and renowned socialite is content with a healthier bank balance and life out of the Melbourne spotlight.
There may very well be a number of distraught young Hawks peeling back the ‘two’ from their most prized brown and gold possession, possibly replacing it with a ‘three’ come October.
In return for the loss of Trent Croad, who crossed the Nullabor back to Glenferrie after just two seasons, the Hawks subsequently drafted two Club Captains in Sam Mitchell and Luke Hodge.
Perhaps life after Buddy won’t be that bad. Perhaps I’m in denial.
Justin Falconer is a second year Bachelor of Journalism (Sport) student at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter: @jfalconer6