Perhaps the most frightening thing for opposition coaches as the Swans continue their irresistible stampede towards the AFL finals is that superstar forward Lance Franklin has been nowhere near his best.
The Swans’ leading goalkicker is in the midst of his most inaccurate year as a power forward, and managed just a single goal in Friday’s 46-point thumping of the second-placed Cats, which qualified Sydney’s flag credentials while significantly dampening those of Geelong.
Franklin’s 52 goals this year have come with 51 behinds, and only twice has he kicked five or more majors in a single match: he had eight against Brisbane in round seven in helping Sydney to a first win of the year, and then five against his old side Hawthorn three weeks later.
Since Franklin’s eight goals against the Lions, Sydney have produced an imposing run of form, winning 11 of their past 13 games and storming into sixth spot despite starting the year at 0-6.
Should they qualify for the finals, they’ll become the first team in the AFL era to do so after losing their opening six matches.
In two finals series for the Swans, Franklin has bagged 19 goals and he once again looms as the danger man if Sydney can secure a 19th top-eight finish from their past 22 seasons.
“He still has such a big impact even when he doesn’t hit the scoreboard,” first-year forward Will Hayward said.
“In that sense it’s good and a few of the smaller players kicking a few is huge as well. I don’t think he needed it [a bag against the Cats], so we’ll see what happens.”
Hayward is one of the Swans’ youngsters benefiting from Franklin’s dominant presence in the forward line.
He and fellow goal sneak Tom Papley helped themselves to three majors on Friday as Sydney handed Geelong their biggest home defeat since 2006, and Hayward now has 17 majors in his debut season after being selected with pick No.21 in last year’s draft.
Franklin has 37 goals for the past three months during Sydney’s stellar run, and still averages a shade over three a game. But his kicking accuracy is just over 50 per cent, not factoring in shots for goal that go out on the full, and that’s a career low for the 30-year-old.
He kicked at 56 per cent in 2008 when bagging a century of goals to help Hawthorn win the premiership that season.
In 2013 when the Hawks won another flag he shot at 62 per cent, and in two losing grand final campaigns with the Swans he’s gone at 61 per cent in 2014 and 60 per cent in 2016.
The Swans’ favourable run home includes two matches at the SCG against lowly Fremantle and Carlton, with an away blockbuster against ladder-leading Adelaide sandwiched in between.
Two more wins would secure a finish in the lower half of the eight, from where the Western Bulldogs won last year’s premiership, but Hayward said the club was still refusing to allow themselves a peek at another finals campaign.
“We need to stay grounded and enjoy the win … but now we move straight onto Fremantle,” Hayward said.
“Everyone’s stepping up, everyone’s back to their best.”