Lance Franklin is doing his best to debunk the ‘never meet your heroes’ adage, thriving this AFL season under the guidance of Tony Lockett.
Franklin is the league’s highest-profile player, but even he was a little starstruck when the once reclusive Lockett joined Sydney earlier this year as a goalkicking coach.
There was good reason. Franklin had grown up idolising the legendary forward, whose status as the VFL/AFL’s leading goalkicker is unlikely to be surpassed.
“He’s a huge person in the AFL football industry but, when he’s in here, he is just like one of us. He’s a normal bloke,” Franklin said.
“He’s easy to approach and easy to talk to – just a great person.
“It’s exciting for everyone to have the best goal-scorer of all time at our club.
“All the young forwards and everyone on the list has enjoyed working with him.”
Franklin warmed up for Saturday’s elimination final against Essendon with a bag of 10 goals in the final round of the regular season.
It was enough to ensure the 30-year-old topped the league’s goal-kicking list for the fourth time in his decorated career.
Fittingly, Franklin became the first man to win four Coleman medals since Lockett.
The superstar was also included in the league’s All-Australian team for a seventh time, while it wouldn’t surprise if his incredible effort against Adelaide was judged goal of the year.
All of which is nice but Franklin craves the premiership he has hungered for since joining the Swans after winning two flags with Hawthorn.
“It would be nice to top it off with a grand final win,” Franklin said of his fourth season.
Franklin feels Sydney have become a more potent side compared to last year, when they suffered an upset loss to the Western Bulldogs in the grand final.
The safe hands of Sam Reid, who didn’t play a game in 2016, have made a big difference.
“It definitely helps having another big target. Last year’s grand final, we had one or two talls that were fit and this year we have four we can pick from,” Franklin said.
Franklin has invested a lot of time into trying to improve his accuracy, the excitement machine’s weakest suit throughout his 269-game career.
He booted 0.6 earlier this year against the Bombers but was deadly accurate against Carlton in round 23, slotting 10.2.
“The last couple of years, I’ve been working really hard with Brett Kirk, Nick Davis and Plugger,” Franklin said.
“It was nice to kick straight but it’s going to be a completely different game this week.”