Buddy closing in on Swans return
SYDNEY Swans coach John Longmire has declared Lance Franklin's looming return from injury won't stunt the growth of the Cygnet stars who have emerged in his absence.
Forward line prodigies Nick Blakey, Tom Papley and Tom McCartin have blossomed in the club's gutsy form revival over the past fortnight, but may have to share the limelight with Franklin on Friday night at the SCG, with the superstar stretching out hard at training on Monday in a bid to put his hand up for the indigenous round Marn Grook blockbuster against Collingwood.
Franklin was striding out in sprints and completing kicking drills on Monday in a desperate bid to return for perhaps the most sacred fixture on the AFL calendar.
In response to Sydney's early-season struggles, several AFL experts have questioned whether Franklin's sheer dominance as one of the all-time greats of the game has come with one side-effect - that it might have impacted on the development of young players around him.
Geelong coach Chris Scott claimed recently that Cats recruit Gary Rohan wasn't able to show his full array of skills at Sydney playing in the same forward line as Franklin and former Swan Troy Luff has said the side can sometimes be too 'Buddy focused' when going inside 50.
As the Swans rebuild, the club has gone all-in on its next generation of stars, who Franklin has been mentoring from the sidelines.
Franklin has now missed four weeks with a hamstring injury and still needs to get through a main session on Wednesday to be given the green tick for a return.
But when he does, Longmire says Franklin's omnipresence up front will only give his protégé's a further boost.
"To be fair we've been able to do that pretty well," said Longmire in a recent interview when asked about developing youth around his centrepiece man.
"McCartin played 15 games last year in his first year, all with Lance.
"I know they'd rather be playing with Lance.
"He takes a very good defender with him. It certainly helped Tommy's development last year. Tommy McCartin was sensational last year with Lance in the team."
However, Longmire says he is mindful of not relegating his emerging crop to bit-part players and insists his plans for Franklin to take on an increased presence up the ground will ensure that is the case.
"We're mindful of that. We've always liked to get him up the ground anyway," said Longmire.
"I've been open and on the record as saying we like to get him up the ground and allow others get to work inside 50, for a few different reasons.
"We'll see how much training he's done when he gets back into the team to see where we can play him."
Teenage sensation Blakey said after the thrilling win over Essendon a fortnight ago that Franklin had been a major influence on him already despite missing the majority of his debut AFL year.
"It's definitely not tough to develop around 'Bud'. He's obviously one of the greatest forwards of all time, I love playing with him and obviously I looked up to him as a child," said Blakey.
The Swans are also quietly confident captain Josh Kennedy will make an immediate return from the quad injury which made him a late scratching from last week's win over North Melbourne, but he too will have to get through Wednesday's main session.
Exciting midfielder Zak Jones is facing three weeks out with a hamstring strain, while Longmire won't be tempted to rush Daniel Menzel's (groin) long-awaited debut for the club, despite the off-season recruit's game time in the NEAFL.