An unstoppable Lance Franklin booted 10 goals on the eve of the AFL finals as Sydney destroyed Carlton by 81 points, further demonstrating they are the team to beat for this year’s premiership.
The superstar Swan passed 850 career goals in the rout before 38,965 lucky fans at the SCG, and rocketed to the top of the Coleman Medal standings where he now sits five majors clear of West Coast spearhead Josh Kennedy. His 10 goals outscored Carlton’s entire team score of 57.
Buddy was irrepressible leading the Swans to a 14th win from their last 16 games, and bouncing Sydney back into fourth on the ladder – a position that will remain theirs if Richmond fail to beat St Kilda on Sunday.
That would mean a second chance in the finals should they lose in the first week, but the Swans won’t need that luxury if they keep playing as they have over this past three-and-a-half months.
There’s an incredible sense of timing from Franklin, who is desperate to win his first flag at the Swans in the fourth season of his nine-year deal.
“There’s always a chance,” Swans coach John Longmire said when asked if he was expecting a Franklin rout.
“He’s been training really well over the last two weeks. He’s been training hard and sharp, and getting two sessions out a week and looking really good.
“Even for the best that helps. He was fantastic clearly, when he’s got his tail up he’s hard to stop.”
Carlton coach Brendon Bolton and his Blues players were simply powerless with Franklin nailing goals from everywhere.
“Buddy was in some great form and kicking them from everywhere, unfortunately,” Bolton said.
“We were trying to combat it but ultimately it wasn’t just Buddy, we couldn’t get enough delay on the footy. Usually we’re pretty good at slowing ball movement up, but today they got some real flow in their ball movement.”
Franklin’s bag was a spectacle of sheer beauty, and rounded out a remarkable regular season for the Swans, who began the year with six-straight losses, but who now become the first side in the AFL era to qualify for the finals from an 0-6 start.
Three of his goals came from deep in the pocket, his seventh requiring a superb snap that sailed high and true, and into the hands of the delirious Sydney fans behind the goal.
His fourth of the night, and 850th of a sparkling career, came from an accidental back heel. Surely only Franklin could conjure such a bizarre finish.
He ended up with 21 kicks, 10 marks and 11 contested possessions in a near-perfect performance.
Saturday’s flogging wasn’t a one-man show, and the usual suspects at the Swans all stood up and did their job.
Luke Parker and Josh Kennedy were brilliant in the middle of the ground, helping plug the absence of Dan Hannebery, while Gary Rohan played his best game of the year, helping himself to three goals.
Callum Sinclair left the field in the first half with an ankle injury, but is expected to be fit in two weeks for the start of the finals.
“We have a position on the starting grid but we’re not sure where until this weekend finishes, but it gives us an opportunity and that’s what we want, and we start again,” Longmire said.
“When you look at your leaders, your experienced players, they play a big part in it. It has to be acknowledged that the players have done a fantastic job to fight back from the start we had.
“It was a clearly a start that we didn’t want, but the players have been able to turn it around and play some fantastic football for a fair while now.
“They have some real belief in the way they’re going about it which is a credit to the leaders, and we’ve been able to introduce some young players that have been able to give us some excitement as well.”
The Swans march on while Carlton’s season now comes to an abrupt end.
Bolton’s team has finished with one fewer win than last season, but the coach said the Blues had still made plenty of progress this season and viewed the Swans as a benchmark Carlton should aim to achieve.
“There’s no doubt they’ve been the benchmark, or in and around the benchmark team, for a long time, they’ve stayed in finals for a while,” Bolton said.
“We’ve got a lot of players with less experience, but it gives you a clear vision of what it takes.”
SYDNEY 3.4 6.7 13.10 21.12 (138)
CARLTON 1.0 5.1 8.4 8.9 (57)
GOALS: Sydney – Franklin 10, Hayward 3, Rohan 3, Tippett, Reid, Kennedy, Heeney, Newman Carlton – Boekhorst 3, Curnow 2, Kruezer, Casboult, Pickett
BEST: Sydney – Franklin, Parker, Kennedy, Rohan, Rampe, Grundy Carlton – Weitering, Kruezer, Simpson, Boakhorst, Gibbs
INJURIES: Sydney – Carlton – Byrne (knee)
UMPIRES: Hayden Gavine, Ray Chamberlain, Andrew Mitchell
CROWD: 38,965 at the SCG
Lance Franklin (Sydney) 10
Luke Parker (Sydney) 9
Josh Kennedy (Sydney) 9
Gary Rohan (Sydney) 8
Dane Rampe (Sydney) 8