Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has added to an already healthy – and sometimes fractious – rivalry with the Swans, declaring Lance Franklin has "never played well" against his former team.
Ahead of Saturday night's top-four defining clash between the teams at the SCG, Kennett lobbed a hand-grenade at the Swans and Franklin, who some now consider has passed Leigh Matthews and Wayne Carey as the greatest VFL-AFL player of all time.
Former Hawk Lance Franklin.
Asked if he was still frustrated watching Franklin play for another team, Kennett told radio station Nova 100 "no, no, I love it. I love playing against Buddy and I’m sorry if he’s not playing this weekend and I can understand if he has a groin injury, if I was Sydney I wouldn’t be risking him knowing that they are going into the finals.
"It’s interesting. I’ve known Lance for many many years, he’s a great guy and he’s grown tremendously over the years but he’s never played well against Hawthorn. He’s never played well, he’s never played well."
Since controversially joining the Swans and not the fledgling Greater Western Sydney ahead of the 2014 campaign, Franklin has 21 goals in nine matches against the Hawks.
While he has been relatively quiet on occasions – he has twice been held goalless – he was arguably the Swans' best player (four goals) in the losing 2014 grand final between the clubs, and booted five in a loss at the SCG last year. He also has booted three goals on three occasions.
The Hawks have won six of the nine matches they have played against Franklin, which could have clouded Kennett's thinking.
It should also be pointed out Franklin also has a modest record against the perennially struggling Gold Coast Suns, kicking 19 goals in eight matches.
Asked how pleased Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson would be with his comments, Kennett replied: "Hang on, you’ve got to be quite open and honest and that’s why I like the challenge. I’m waiting for the day … if he plays, it’s good. I hope he doesn’t play if he’s genuinely hurt because I think it’s better for the competition if he's there in the finals.”
Franklin is in doubt for the match because of a groin strain and will be given until game time to prove his fitness.
There was already much at stake in this clash to end the home-and-away campaign, for the winner will secure a top-four berth and a double chance in the finals. On an individual level, Franklin sits third in the Coleman Medal race, three goals behind leader Jack Riewoldt, and is eying his fifth medal.
Now Kennett has attacked Franklin's record against the Hawks, the club he left after the 2013 premiership, the goal-kicking superstar will have even more motivation to continue his superb recent form, which has seen him boot 13 goals in the past three weeks.
Franklin was absent because of a bruised heel when the teams met in round eight this season, the Swans – led by seven goals from youngster Ben Ronke – surprising with an eight-point win at the MCG.
A fuming Clarkson later declared the Swans had got away with "blue murder" from the umpires for what he considered had been illegal blocking tactics. Clarkson even took his concerns to AFL chief Gillon McLachlan over breakfast on the Monday, incensing the Swans. He and Swans coach John Longmire brokered peace days later.
Franklin, 31, is in the fifth year of nine-year contract, and is understood to be earning $1.2 million this season.
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