LANCE Franklin’s reputation as “Bad Boy Buddy” has hit new heights. The Hawthorn star, already the most penalised AFL player in the past four seasons, has endured a month from hell with the umpires. Franklin has conceded 16 free kicks and been awarded just two in his past four games.
Mark goes through the stats very thoroughly pointing out such pearlers as:
- In 2008 he has given away 38 while only getting 15 frees
- Since his debut in 2005, he won 56 frees and given away 135 for a difference of 78 to the bad in 70 games
- In that same time Nick Riewoldt has only given away 25 and received 111, a difference of 86 to the good
- This year Buddy has given away 15 in the back frees (3 more then anyone else), holding the ball 8 times (2nd most in the league) and holding the man 6 times.
- etc, etc
What Mark doesn’t really do is to look whether this is the guy being hardly done by or if there is reasons for it. So I will give that a bit of a whirl and at this point I should mention my Hawks bias! But what you might be surprised to learn is that I don’t have a huge problem with the figures and totally understand it!
When you read that this year he leads the league for in the back decisions, you have to look at what his game has developed into. Early in his career it was often pointed out that he was a leading player, a crumbing player and that his over head and contested marking was the weakest part of his game. In the early days, this was largely true but that Franklin no longer plays here! You often see on a message board where the “can’t mark” point is still thrown at him which is a big mistake (both to fans and especially opponents). According to the stats provided by Pro-Stats, Buddy is second in the league in contested marks with 29 (only behind Richo’s total of 31). With his 21 year old body really starting to fill out, he is now standing toe-to-toe with his opponent and trying to push off and take the contested mark in a marking contest.
This tactic largely explains the reason for all the in the back decisions. Buddy had about 3 or 4 occasions in the weekends game with West Coast that in the back was paid in these situations and in fact he had a number on the night he kicked 9 against Essendon at the dome. Most of them are clearly there and some (not many I would guess, haven’t had a chance to look at the video of them as of yet) probably are give on reputation.
He also is a goal kicker and part of his game is to take on opponents and try to break tackles and kick goals. A lot of times this works, but a lot of other times it doesn’t meaning that he is often caught holding the ball. Sometimes at the game I think that the umpires are often hot on this but it is in the minority. Holding the man I expect is partially because he is a clumsy tackler and partly a Hawthorn tactic to hold the player getting rid of the ball from continuing their run and so again, not surprising.
But the surprise is the lack of frees for! (In my bias eyes) I am sure that Buddy misses a lot of possible Frees but is that any different to any other forward? In the article, Hawks footy manager, Mark Evens is quoted on this point:
“He’s been a bit unlucky on occasions,” Hawthorn football manager Mark Evans said yesterday. “Buddy makes such good position, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a few there he could have got.
“Sometimes key forwards can have very good position and a defender can scrap and scrag and there’s no free kick.
“There’s been a bit of that.”
The other side of the coin is to look at Nick Riewoldt and ask is he a teachers pet so to speak or are his free kicks justified? And from what I have seen on him it is very understandable that Nick gets the frees he does and doesn’t give that many away. (If there are any Saints fans reading, would love to hear you thoughts in comments below but I will give my opinion here) From what I see of Riewoldt, he does his best work out on hard leads. He doesn’t often stand toe-to-toe with his opponent and wrestle for position. For this reason I would image a great deal of his 17 free kicks this year are for in the back or chopping of the arms when he just flat out out runs his opponent on the lead. The fact that he is mostly on the lead and rarely beaten to the ball means he doesn’t put himself in position for the in the back frees that Buddy does. So although it makes for great reading, to compare the twos totals is probably not fair for the AFL/umpiring department.
The last point of the story touched on SuperCoach and the points Buddy owners would have lost due to this free kick count:
If you take away all frees against and 50m penalties from the equation, Franklin ranks as the second best player with an average of 126 points. His average of 106 points currently ranks him 19th in the competition. Coaches who did not do their homework on his past deeds are losing 20 points a game through his undisciplined acts.
I think Mark misses and absolutely important point on this meme. As he said and I explained earlier, a lot of the frees come from in the backs in marking contests. Often these frees are given when Buddy takes the mark. Although I do SuperCoach, I rather talk Dream Team as it is easier to score and I have a better knowledge of it. If you look at the difference between Buddy giving away a free (-3) and him taking the Mark (3) and going back and kick (3) the goal (6), that is a –15 loss off your potential score! If you assume two of the frees are let go on the weekend (assuming everything else stays the same and thats a huge if) and he takes the mark and kicks the goal, that’s an additional 30 points and means he breaks 100 (and makes me a lot happier seeing’s as I picked him as Captain this week against my better judgement)!
So it was an interesting statistical examination of the situation by Mark, but I hope thinking about the context of the raw stats is even more interesting (even with my poor English!).