Lance Franklin’s virtuoso performance against Collingwood has revived Sydney’s push for the finals but coach John Longmire knows the Swans cannot rely on the superstar forward to win games off his own boot.
The Swans are back in the eight and need at least two more wins to stay there, starting next Sunday against Melbourne in a high stakes match that is likely to play a big part in shaping both clubs’ September aspirations.
With three rounds left in the season, the Swans’ fortunes are mirroring those of their spearhead, who turned in one of his best performances of the year to lift his team back into the eight.
Quiet in the Swans’ losses to Gold Coast and Essendon, Franklin bagged six out of 11 in the victory on the weekend. The four-time Coleman Medal winner had also been influential in the club’s narrow win over North Melbourne.
Former stars Dermott Brereton and Matthew Lloyd have both said the Swans would not have beaten the Magpies had defender Darcy Moore not broken down, leaving Franklin to prey on debutant Jack Madgen and first-year rookie Brody Mihocek.
He could have another inexperienced opponent this week in Melbourne’s Oscar McDonald.
Franklin was able to train for five minutes last week, Longmire joked, to take part in a training drill. The Swans are fielding an inexperienced forward line after losing Kurt Tippett to retirement before the season and Sam Reid and Gary Rohan to injury.
After impressing earlier in the season, Will Hayward, Ben Ronke and Tom McCartin – who kicked the match-winning goal against the Pies – have dropped off in the past month as the effects of a long season takes its toll.
They have found unlikely scoring sources for backs-to-the-wall wins against Geelong and Hawthorn but are becoming increasingly reliant on Franklin’s golden left boot.
“We need to find other avenues, there’s no question about that,” Longmire said.
“If you look at the other names up there they’re finding their way as well, they’re learning at AFL senior level and those guys you mentioned certainly had an impact at different times but they’re also going to be in and out of the game at different times.
“Hayward, [Tom] Papley, Ronke, McCartin, [Jordan] Dawson in our front half, [Oliver] Florent, they’re going to be good at times and they’re not going to be there the whole time, that’s ok.
“They were surrounded by a very experienced player, Lance, and we were able to find some ways forward outside of that in the second half.”
Star midfielder Dan Hannebery is a chance to return next week, which would provide much-needed experience.
Longmire spoke glowingly of veteran Jarrad McVeigh, who had 26 possessions after missing three games with a broken collarbone.
“He certainly did some really important things,” Longmire said. “It wasn’t just his experience, he was able to win some important balls just before three-quarter time [which] stick out to me. It was good to have that experience around the younger boys.”
Longmire said comeback kid Alex Johnson played his part in his first match since the 2012 grand final.
“He had a big ask, coming in and playing a fair bit of the game on a bloke who has been in pretty good form in Mason Cox,” Longmire said.
“What we thought we’d get would be a competitive effort and that’s what we got.
“He got a taste of what AFL footy’s like for the first time in a long time and played an important role for us and helped us, gave us some really strong direction and did what we wanted him to do.”