Swans walk taller with Buddy by their side
Photo Source: AAP
Lance Franklin is a man of few words but when he speaks, teammates listen.
Franklin has served as a mentor for Sydney youngsters Xavier Richards, Isaac Heeney, Tom Papley and George Hewett throughout the AFL season.
The superstar's leadership may not attract the same kind of analysis and adulation as his game-breaking goals, slick passing or ability to harass.
But it has made a big impression on the people who matter most, like Swans co-captain Jarrad McVeigh.
"He doesn't speak a hell of a lot but when he does we all sit up and listen," McVeigh said.
"It's always spot on with what he's seeing and how he sees the game ... we all stand taller when we stand beside him.
"The way he's taught the young players with leading patterns and the way the game should be played, they've taken a huge amount of confidence out of it."
Franklin, returning to the sport's grandest stage after sitting out the 2015 finals because of mental health issues, was always going to be a star attraction at Friday's grand final parade.
"I'd take that wouldn't I? I'd take it," Franklin said, when asked if he thought he'd be playing the 2016 grand final at this time last year.
The 29-year-old was more interested in heaping praise on fellow forwards Richards and Papley than talking about his own form or likely role on Saturday.
"They're obviously some talented kids but they've got in the team on the back of some really strong pre-seasons," Franklin said.
"They've been really good this week, they've been positive ... everyone's kept them pretty grounded. It does help being in Sydney though, you're sort of away from the bubble of football."
Franklin looms as a wildcard in Saturday's grand final.
He is arguably the player most capable of single-handedly influencing the result but there's also the fact Western Bulldogs can't confidently bank on what sort of role he'll play.
Franklin has booted a team-high 80 goals this year but in recent weeks has been doing his best work further up the ground, teeing up plenty of goals with pinpoint passes.
"It just changes, we don't go in with an absolutely specific role for him," Swans coach John Longmire said.
"As opposition defences change, forward lines change as well.
"It just depends on the state of the game, what we think needs to happen at a certain period of time or what Lance thinks about where he needs to go.
"We have a bit of flexibility with that ... Lance has a pretty good feel for the game.
"If we need to change it, we do."
Franklin booted 5.4 when the two sides met in round 15, with Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge saying his presence played a role in team selection.
"Part of it (picking Fletcher Roberts ahead of Matthew Suckling) is related to that," Beveridge said.
"Last time Lance kicked five and showed what he can do when he gets some supply, we'll have to be right on our toes around their big forwards."