AFL: Aboriginal AFL star Lance Franklin has always had plenty of strings to his bow.
Now Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge feels the 25-year-old is ready to add leadership to that extensive list.
The AFL conducted its annual captains’ poll on Thursday and Franklin was an overwhelming favourite to again win the Coleman Medal, as he did last season.
Franklin’s expected to spend more time in the midfield this season, which will be his first in the Hawks’ leadership group.
The 25-year-old’s freakish goal-kicking ability has dazzled for some time and is one of many reasons the Hawks were voted as the team to beat for the 2012 premiership in the captains’ poll.
But Hodge feels his leadership has also developed to a point where it will also significantly benefit the team this year.
“He’s always been a quieter guy, but you can see how much he’s matured,” Hodge said on Thursday.
“Even on the field you guys can see he’s a bit more mature out there.
“He’s more willing to help younger guys. It’s not just about himself.
“He’s done a lot of focusing on helping his fellow forwards and trying to get a better side.”
Hodge suggested Franklin’s had to develop faster than most due to his perceived party-boy image and the intense spotlight that comes with being one of the best players in the game.
“Everyone takes time to mature,” he said.
“Everyone puts that much pressure on Buddy. I’m tipping all you guys would have been doing dumb things up until you’re 25 and probably still do.
“So unfortunately for Buddy he’s had to handle that a little bit differently and mature a lot more faster than other people do.
“I reckon his last three or four years – how much he’s come along, both in football terms and his maturity off the field, it’s been outstanding.”
And to top it all off, Franklin boasts the football brain of a player who can seemingly kick a goal from almost anywhere on the field.
“He knows where the ball’s going to go,” Hodge said of Franklin the tactician.
“The more you play senior footy – he’s played 130-odd games now – the better you’re going to get.”
Hodge confirmed Jarryd Roughead would more than likely miss his side’s season opener against Collingwood.
“It depends who you speak to. He thinks he will … but speaking to Clarko (coach Alastair Clarkson), probably not.
“They don’t want to play him for 50 or 60 per cent of the game … hopefully (he’ll be back) round two or round three.”
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