‘Always an open book’: How ‘little kid’ Buddy makes young Swans better
Hayden McLean knows he is playing through a special era in the Swans’ history.
The 23-year-old was on the bench when Lance Franklin kicked his 1000th goal, relegated to the role of bystander as thousands of fans “caved in” on that pocket of the SCG.
“People just rushed through all of us [on the bench] … it was almost like we weren’t there,” he recalls. “Not many people can say they were there or playing with him, so it’s definitely something that I’ll cherish.”
Franklin will return from a broken finger to play his former club Hawthorn on Monday at Launceston’s UTAS Stadium – a venue imbued with plenty of recent history for the Swans and their most recognisable player.
Franklin kicked three goals the last time the Swans played there – an agonising one-point loss to the Giants in last year’s elimination final derby – and booted a career-best 13 goals in the brown and gold back in 2012.
Much has changed since that famous performance, but one thing remains the same – people still come to the footy just to watch Buddy. However, Franklin, 35, is now supported by a young crop of tall forwards, including McLean, who are cherishing playing with a once-in-a-generation forward.
“Around the club, Bud’s almost like a little kid,” McLean says. “He loves playing his table tennis and getting around the younger fellas and I think the [quarantine] hubs really brought that out in him.”
McLean, a 197cm goalkicker, credits Franklin for helping him with his forward craft since he joined the Swans in March 2019 as a pre-season supplementary pick.
“He’s always [been an] open book,” he says. “Any questions you want with him, we fire away … just that experience and knowledge from both Hawthorn in that [premiership] era, and then being in Sydney, he’s definitely got a lot there we can pick at.”
McLean has played every game this season in a team not short of tall forward options who can pinch-hit in the ruck. Port Adelaide recruit Peter Ladhams had to wait until Round four to make his debut, while Swans coaches have been impressed with Joel Amartey’s development.
That competition for spots is demonstrated by the names on the emergency bench. Former captain Josh Kennedy misses out on selection for the second week in a row, while fellow veteran Sam Reid makes way for the returning Franklin.
McLean believes squad depth improves his performances and is another healthy sign for a club looking to improve on their one final at the ground they return to today.
“It can take you to another level sometimes knowing that you got to perform each week or that spot is in question,” he says. “I think across the board, it makes the club better.”
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