I love Buddy. I’m not ashamed to admit my admiration and affection for the guy. Call it a man crush, call it whatever you like but as a Hawthorn supporter it’s only natural to show some love. I know I’m far from alone. He is Hawthorn’s poster boy, every hawks youngsters favourite player. Watching Hawthorn supporters rise and hearing the buzz around the ground when Buddy goes near the ball is one of the great experiences of live football. It is an electric feeling.

At the risk of going over the top, simply put Franklin is a phenomenon. A physical freak that can do things that no other man can. In some ways he can at times seem bigger than the game itself. No other player since Gary snr has attracted so much interest from neutral supporters. People tune in to see what Buddy will do this week, what will happen to him, what kind of adventures he might have. At roughly just beyond the halfway point of his career Buddy has already given us Hawks supporters so many great memories. Dominating Essendon, winning a final we weren’t supposed to against the Crows, booting 100 in one of the great seasons in 08, cleaning up Cousins (still dirty on the suspension), the ridiculous running goals against Essendon in2010 and that amazing goal late in last year’s Prelim. A goal that only Buddy could kick and how somehow we weren’t really surprised when he did.  However with great power comes great responsibility and the expectations that are now placed on Franklin are enormous. Over the last couple of years Mike Sheahan has placed Buddy at #1 in his Pre Season “best of” lists. Most people in that time would argue that Gary jnr or Chris Judd have been the premier player in the game. Franklin has in fact been All Australian for the past two years and most people would agree that he has been the best player forward of centre since 2008. But that 08 season, when he threatened to change the competition name to the BFFL (Buddy Franklin Football League), will forever be the form that he will be judged against, and for some people good enough will never be enough.

I had to laugh last Saturday. Unfortunately I was at a work induction day and I wasn’t able to watch the game. After three hours of sitting in a room and watching a slide show we were given a short break, presumably so that we wouldn’t mess up sleeping patterns by nodding off. I immediately got out the trusty iPhone and clicked to the nifty AFL App. Nearly half time, Hawks well in control by the look of it. Check the individual stats. It’s a team game but I don’t care. Buddy Franklin 5 goals! Not even half time! Atta boy. I smiled to myself. In the lead up so many of the experts clogging up the footy media had Buddy in their sights. He was out of form, they said. Wasn’t kicking straight and was down on confidence. And to be honest I kind of agreed with them. Not so much that he was out of form, but most of my fellow Hawthorn fans would testify that the whole missing shots on goal thing can be unbelievably frustrating. We long ago accepted that it was part of the Franklin package, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch. You can kind of laugh when it’s against Melbourne, but when the Tigers violate you by 10 goals you start to worry. But how did Buddy respond? 13 goals, 4 behinds.  Thirteen. A bakers dozen. That’s not supposed to happen. Not anymore. And to add to the Franklin comedy routine the lesson was dished out in the elements at that hub for footballing non events at Aurora Stadium. (No offense to any Tasmanians reading but until now the place hasn’t really been the scene of any memorable contests or performances. I love it though because more often than not we win!) Buddy not only proved the doubters wrong, he embarrassed them. He blew them out of the water in the most ridiculous fashion. Then I realised it wasn’t ridiculous. Everything about the man is larger than life. Why shouldn’t this be?

That night I sat down and once again pulled the iPhone out. I had seen the final score, 115 points, and knew Buddy’s final goal tally but had not yet seen any highlights. It’s satisfying to watch your team get up and belt a team. A lot less stressful than going down against Geelong let me tell you (don’t even get me started on that). Dishing out a hiding should be enjoyed and never taken for granted. If it wasn’t them it’d be us. So to see the highlights of the Hawks big win brought me a lot of joy. Seeing Sammy Mitchell control the middle, Cyril running down some poor bastard from behind, Suckling and his big hook foot and of course Buddy. Every one of his goals was earned, from memory only one from a free kick (it was there) and several from strong marks and long accurate kicking (thank god!). My favourite had to be his final one. With the crowd urging them on, the Hawks looked for Franklin in the forward 50. With just seconds to go Buddy got rid of his opponent and looked certain to mark and kick after the siren. He then inexplicably dropped a relatively easy mark below his knees. With his Kangaroos opponent now back in the contest Buddy threw it on the boot from about 40 out and it sailed through as the siren went with Anthony Hudson screaming “Thirteen!?! Thirteen!!!”. I sat there by myself watching my phone with a big fat smile on my face. That one goal captured Buddy perfectly. Despite having dropped a sitter he turns and snaps an outrageous goal right at the death. It was showtime football. It summed up why we love the man, in a similar way that people loved Richo. Like Richo you just have to watch Buddy. In a game full of robots and clones Buddy stands out as a personality. He plays the game as we tried to play as kids. But he is not a selfish footballer, despite what the naysayers tell you. His score assist tally attests to this. Give me an exciting tall forward over a midfielder anyday. Above all else he puts a smile on people’s faces. Who knows what he will do this week? Not me. All I know is that I have to watch

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