Sydney coach John Longmire was impressed with the Swans’ even performance on Saturday night, in their 59-point win against Fremantle at the SCG.
Longmire’s delight at having Franklin available for Saturday night’s win over Fremantle, was replaced by the joy of watching his gun forward do what he does best.
Even with their superstar forward back in the team, the Swans found a way to score, with 11 separate goal kickers and their two leading disposal winners their defenders.
Jake Lloyd (41 disposals) and Jarrad McVeigh (33 disposals) lead the way for the Swans, registering 16 rebound 50s between them, while youngsters Callum Mills, Isaac Heeney, Oliver Florent, Tom McCartin and Will Hayward contributed throughout.
Despite Franklin’s 3-goal haul, Longmire was satisfied with the Swans’ even performance.
“It was a really good performance tonight,” Longmire said.
“(It was good) offensively, good defensively, and a good spread of players contributing, whether they're blokes that have been around a bit or some of the young kids”.
While the defenders won most of the ball for the Swans, with four collecting 20 or more disposals, their ability to intercept mark, repel Fremantle’s attacks and kick off the Swans’ counter-attacks impressed Longmire.
“They played well (the defenders),” Longmire said.
“They all contributed, they did a good job, and most importantly, (they) kept the opposition down to a goal at half-time.
“Everything else gets built on top of that.
“As long as the priority for them as defenders is what it should be, all over the ground, then they're able to turn defence into attack.”
Jake Lloyd was an important player for the Swans on Saturday night, collecting career-high 41 possessions and 9 rebound 50s.
He is one of the understated and underrated players of the AFL, his influence on matches is often overlooked, for the flashier, more attacking players, but he continues to get the job done.
While Longmire may have been star crossed with Franklin’s performance, Lloyd’s development has not escaped the attention of the eagle-eyed Swans coach.
“He keeps on developing (Jake Lloyd), coming off our Rookie, contributing each week and growing in confidence” Longmire said.
“He played mostly through the midfield in the early 50 or 60 games, and the last couple of years off the half-back and contributing wherever he goes.
“He's an important member of our back six and he's able to really give us the punch off the back line.”
The Swans have struggled in recent weeks to find avenues to goal, with just three goal kickers in their 8-point win against the Hawks in Round 8, Ben Ronke leading the way with 7.
Before Franklin’s injury, he was the most targeted forward in the AFL, despite the Swans having other forward half options.
In his absence, Hayward and Ronke booted 9 goals each, while the midfielders contributed each game.
With Franklin and Hannebery returning to the team, it opened chances for the next tier players and the younger, less experienced members of the team to contribute.
Longmire is in no doubt that the Swans will need to continue to search for the winning formula as the season progresses.
“We've had a makeshift forward group there as far as normal structure goes, without the talls there for a few weeks, and (we) have been able to get away with it,” Longmire said.
“We know that our small forwards are not going to come out and kick seven (goals) every week, so you need to keep evolving your football and your structure and we're trying to do that, evolve what our team looks like all over the ground.
“Our front-half is probably evolving quicker than most parts of the ground for us.
“That seemed to work for us tonight, but we'll keep looking at different options to improve it.”
Lance Franklin’s three goals were far from the decider in the contest, with the Swans well and truly ahead in the match by the time he booted his second major.
His attack on the ball in the forward half ensured the Dockers didn’t have an easy out kick out of defence, and he constantly attacked the ball in the air.
John Longmire spoke to the media on Monday morning, ruling out the star player after the Swans’ Round 8 encounter, before stunningly recalling him to the side 3 days later.
The coach said positive scans on Tuesday and Wednesday gave Franklin a chance for selection, given he made it unscathed through training.
Longmire said he had no idea he would have Franklin available until he proved his fitness on the track until later in the week.
“You were surprised? I was a bit surprised,” Longmire said.
“The medical staff, they always told me it was an unusual injury all the way along.
“When he had a scan on Tuesday and felt better, and felt better again on Wednesday, the phone call came through about would you consider playing him if he got through training.
“That conversation probably didn't have to go too long.
“He just ended up training and getting through. We just managed him a bit in that last quarter and backed off the minutes.”
Despite the lack of training and game time, he was in ominous form early in the second half but found the going a bit tough early in the game.
“He was a bit rusty on a couple of those earlier kicks and things like that, which happens to any player,” Longmire said.
“But the longer the game went, the better he seemed to feel, and move and look, that's a good sign and hopefully he pulls up ok.”
While the Swans will want to build momentum leading into the bye off the back of their second consecutive win, and second win of the season at the SCG, Longmire is under no illusions that his opponents will simply roll over.
“That's what we would like to do (build momentum), but you've still actually got to go about doing it, that's the challenge,” Longmire said.
“Putting one foot in front of another and keep going, it's not easy to do, that's the aim but there's an opposition out there trying to prevent you from doing it.”
Tom McCartin was a surprise inclusion ahead of the Swans trip to the MCG to face the Hawks last round, but proved that not only can he play, but that he belongs at the AFL level too.
Coach John Longmire acknowledges that he’s not expecting McCartin to mark everything that comes his way, he’s delighted that he’s been able to contest and bring the ball to ground, for the smalls to mop up.
“He just contests hard and brings the ball to the ground,” Longmire said.
“He kicked a couple of goals, which is fantastic, but he's able to bring some of those small forwards into the play – Tom Papley and Ben Ronke – those guys, just by competing and bringing the ball to the deck.
“That's an important part for a kid who was the youngest in the draft last year and playing just his second game of league footy.
“Just keeping it simple for him and he's doing a good job of it.”
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