Sydney Swans coach John Longmire has lashed out at criticism against his superstar goal-kicker Buddy Franklin, following an opening round in the AFL dominated by debate around the bump. Several players were on the receiving end of brutal hits in the opening round, with Franklin among those players to be banned or sent straight to the tribunal, in the case of Adelaide's Shane McAdam.
Pickett was banned for two games after collecting Western Bulldogs midfielder Bailey Smith high, while the Crows are set to appeal McAdam's three-match suspension at the AFL tribunal on Thursday. The Swans, meanwhile, accepted Franklin's one-week ban for the high bump on Sam Collins that will see him miss Sunday's home game against former club Hawthorn.
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The three incidents have sparked heated debate across the AFL world, with Collingwood great Scott Pendlebury floating the idea of introducing a sin bin in the AFL, as a way of stamping out some of the uglier incidents in the game. AFL 360 co-host Mark Robinson took an even harsher view of the bumps, labelling them "cheap shots" and "cowardly" actions that had no place in the game.
Robinson singled out Franklin for specific criticism after round one, claiming the Swans sharpshooter had form when it came to bumps over the course of his career. “Franklin’s been doing that for 15 years. I’m glad he’s got a week," Robinson said.
“Everyone says it’s unfortunate Buddy might miss – what about it’s unfortunate Sam Collins had to leave the field and get a concussion test? It’s never unfortunate for the people Franklin hits.
"I’m glad that (MRO) Michael Christian has upgraded (the bumps). I’m glad there’s so much discussion. Lower leagues, don’t do that to players. Those days are gone.
“Play tough football otherwise. Send a message from the top through all the leagues: That is not acceptable and we’re not putting up with it anymore. In the split second... sometimes they can’t be avoidable. But then you have bumps like that that can be avoidable.”
Pundits have been quick to make the link between the round one high shots and recent class action suits levelled at the AFL by ex-players, who are seeking compensation for "cognitive impairment" allegedly suffered as a result of repeated concussions. However, Sydney's coach says it's unfair to lump every bump together and argues they must be judged on a case-by-case basis.
"Once you throw them all into the one bucket I think it can be a bit misleading," Longmire said. "They're all a bit different. (Franklin's) was certainly different to the other bumps on the weekend.
"We support the fact that the head needs protection. The education that the players get in that regard is really strong. We accept the one-week (suspension) and move on."
Buddy Franklin to miss game against Hawthorn
The MRO categorised all three of the aforementioned round one bumps as careless conduct and high contact but deemed Franklin's medium impact, Pickett's high and McAdam's severe. Longmire argued that Franklin was a little unlucky after striking Collins with his shoulder as the Suns defender bent to pick up the ball.
"(Franklin's) initial thought was it was a bounce that went the wrong way, and both he and Collins adjusted to that," Longmire explained. "Then he braced for contact rather than bent down."
The one-game ban for Franklin means he misses out on what could be a final chance to play former side Hawthorn, the club where he won two AFL premierships before moving to Sydney in 2014. Buddy admitted he came close to retiring after Sydney's grand final loss to Geelong last year, before signing a one-year extension to remain at the Swans in 2023.
Longmire dismissed suggestions Franklin would be especially disappointed to miss what could be a last hurrah against the Hawks, who most pundits believe are an unrealistic chance of playing finals footy in 2023. "I just think he's disappointed not to be playing," the Swans coach said.
"Ultimately, he likes to compete and get out there and test himself. He plays the game as a competitor and unfortunately misses the game against the Hawks."
The Swans are still determining who will replace Franklin but Sam Reid is again unavailable with a glute injury. "Whether we go a bit smaller or whether we bring in a Joel Amartey-type player, we're working through that," Longmire said.
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