Buddy wanted in Canberra

Lance Franklin of the Hawks. Photo: Quinn RooneyHawthorn captain clinging to hope Franklin will stay putAlastair Clarkson puzzled on Franklin’s futureBuddy the centrepiece of looming player movements

The ACT government hopes superstar Lance Franklin will be on show in Canberra next year regardless of what jersey he’s wearing.

Franklin is likely to announce this week whether he’ll be a Hawk or a Giant next year and former Sydney coach Rodney Eade believes ”Buddy” can emulate former Swans star Tony Lockett by being the figurehead that launches the Greater Western Sydney brand on and off the field.

ACT sports minister Andrew Barr has reaffirmed his desire to pencil in Hawthorn as one of four sides GWS will play at Manuka Oval next year.

Despite winning a second premiership with Hawthorn on Saturday, the superstar forward is tipped to sign with the Giants on a multimillion dollar six-year deal.

The ACT government is two years into a 10-year deal with the Giants where one pre-season and three home-and-away games are played each season in Canberra.

The Giants played cellar dwellers St Kilda, Gold Coast and Western Bulldogs in this year’s premiership, as well as a pre-season clash with Essendon.

But the Giants still attracted higher crowds at Manuka than in Sydney this year, and Barr says it has them well placed to attract the AFL’s big hitters.

”We’ll certainly ask for it [Hawthorn match], if we don’t get it this year then maybe the year after,” he said. ”We’ve already put in our requests, which were Hawthorn, Geelong, Gold Coast, Collingwood and Sydney Swans.

”The key thing is to ensure we get a variety of different clubs playing here in the pre-season and premiership matches. Gold Coast will continue as a Manuka rivalry, but for the other slots we certainly want to rotate teams through.”

Manuka Oval is undergoing a revamp including increasing its capacity to around 15,500 after floodlights were installed last year.

An avid Hawthorn fan, Barr believes the improvements give them a realistic chance of luring the premiers.

”The facilities are being developed as we speak getting ready for the cricket World Cup, it will be a much better experience for fans and players,” he said.

”We’ve spoken with the Giants and the AFL and everyone agrees the best thing is for every team to have played the Giants in Canberra over the 10-year period.”

Eade, now Collingwood’s director of football, said Franklin’s likely arrival was a marketing boon for the Giants.

”GWS and the AFL have got to take advantage of his profile and give them a figurehead,” he said.

Eade was Swans coach when Lockett, the AFL’s all-time leading goal kicker, helped put Sydney on the map in the mid to late 1990s.

”He was an enormous drawcard, he was as important as nearly anybody else in getting us up and going and accepted in the marketplace,” Eade said.

”There’s no doubt Franklin can do that, he’s a cult figure at Hawthorn and has that attraction, he’ll be great from a marketing sense. You have to back that up with performance, and he’s proved himself to be a fantastic player.”

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