The Sydney Swans are not used to celebrity status. They are not used to front page headlines. Through signing Buddy Franklin back in November, the club now has to deal with these on a weekly basis. As a Swans member, my head has been spinning since the day that the Giants decided they would announce that Buddy was indeed coming to the Swans. The Swans bravely entered a new frontier with the much publicised 9-year, $10 million deal that caused the collective football media to go into absolute meltdown. Confusion reigned as the news broke, the football media machine went into overdrive, yet nobody could figure out ‘what on earth has happened here’. I personally believe that this was an expertly orchestrated recruiting coup, the likes of which have never been seen before in our game. From the time the news broke, Buddy, and the Swans were in the gun and rightly so. This was a mammoth deal that any player would happily snap up. The jury is still out as to whether it was the right move or not, but as negativity has been the overriding response, here are some of my thoughts as to why it most certainly was the right move.
I am focusing on the positive aspects of this deal as I am sick and tired of reading or hearing about reasons why this deal is doomed. Buddy Franklin is a superstar of the highest order. With the possible exception of Gary Ablett Jnr, there is no bigger name in the AFL. A player of Buddy’s talent comes along once in a generation, if that. For the previous nine seasons, footy fans all over the country have marvelled at his outrageous blend of skill, pace, power and agility. Never before has a man of key-forward stature moved like him. Never before have we seen an athlete with such footballing gifts. I accept that he divides opinion. But why is this? Is it because of his confidence, or because he likes the spotlight? Is it because he can do things that the rest of us can only dream about? From all reports he was very popular at Hawthorn, and I know that he is very popular at Sydney. His on field form will only improve as he gets used to new teammates and vice versa. His form will also improve with the inclusion of messieurs Tippett, Goodes and Reid.
Buddy actually wanted to come to the Swans. If anybody can name me one club that would not do their utmost to sign him when he has approached their club stating his want to play for them, I’d like to know. I appreciate that the amount of money and the length of contract have upset some people. It is a risk, there is no doubt about that. But the Sydney Swans have proven over time to be a club that makes good decisions, simple as that. Seventeen other clubs had the opportunity to offer him a contract as he was a free agent. The Swans would certainly have calculated player payments and possible player movement into the equation and decided that they could make it work. For all the rumour and innuendo about unhappy players, who will apparently want to leave, we have only lost Shane Mumford from our best twenty-two. Mumford was also handsomely remunerated to move on. At this point in time, I have only seen players lining up to re-sign and stay on at the club.
Club membership is already at a record high for this season. For a club that generally struggled to reach the 30,000 mark until recently, the target of 40,000 members will be achieved this year. The new recruit has no doubt played a big hand in this being the case. Excitement builds in Sydney only when the Swans are winning and the SCG fills up. Buddy provides the big ticket item that the Swans will potentially always need in a ridiculously competitive market in a city where supporters of all codes are increasingly staying at home to watch their sport. Sure, Buddy has brought an unprecedented amount of headlines to the club this season, but as they say in the classics, ‘any publicity is good publicity’. The Sydney market demands big names with a big profile. Whilst the Swans now have a strong membership base and regular die hard fans, I believe they will never feel comfortable in this market purely due to the nature of the Sydney based sports fan. No town loves a winner more.
I acknowledge that as a Swans member, I have a vested interest in this deal being successful. But, to be perfectly honest, I like the guy and I can only see positives in this long term investment in one of the greatest entertaining players that we will ever witness. Negativity will always dominate news headlines, but if you look through that, you might just see a positive outcome. If anybody out there says that they would not like to see him in their colours, I would be very surprised. Welcome to the Swans, Buddy. I look forward to cheer, cheering you on for the next nine years.