The Sydney Swans face a daunting week ahead, sweating on the match fitness of star player, Buddy Franklin. The Swans have revitalised their finals campaign with gutsy wins over Collingwood, Melbourne and the GWS Giants over the last three weeks.
At the end of Round 19, the Swans dropped to ninth on the ladder, out of finals contention. They were struggling to create scoring opportunities and were getting beaten in the midfield. They looked out of gas.
Their recent run of form, however, has been dealt a nervous blow with superstar forward Lance Franklin harbouring a suspected groin injury from their epic win over the Giants at Spotless Stadium on Saturday night. Their late-season comeback has largely been off the back of stellar Franklin performances. Franklin has proven invaluable by booting 13 goals and taking 26 marks over the past three weeks.
Coach John Longmire is giving Lance Franklin until game day to prove he is match ready to take on the Hawks in a blockbuster that will decide who nabs the final spot in the top four. While the Swans are guaranteed a finals berth, they could finish as low as sixth, meaning an away qualifying final could soon be upped to a home elimination final. The Swans will want their star player in the selection mix given their poor home record this season, registering only five home wins.
Franklin was seen limping to the bench with only ninety seconds of match time remaining, appearing to be in discomfort when talking with the Swans’ doctors. The four-time Coleman Medallist has had an injury-plagued season, struggling from a heel injury since Round 1. If Franklin is ruled out, he’ll miss out on nabbing a fifth Coleman Medal.
Nonetheless, the Swans remain confident that Franklin will be match fit, given Franklin’s his gallant efforts in battling injury this season. If he were to be rested, the Swans have found other avenues of scoring throughout the season, with youngsters Will Hayward, Ollie Florent and Ben Ronke consistently finding the scoreboard. In a forward line reshuffle, midfielders Luke Parker and Isaac Heeney could move forward and create further forward targets for the Swans midfield.
Despite the Swans appearing doomed to miss finals, Saturday’s match at the SCG is shaping up to be one of the games of the season and could be a season-defining moment for either team.