Robert DiPierdomenico and Barry Hall arm-wrestle at the AFL grand final lunch in Canberra on Tuesday. Photo: Rohan ThomsonFormer Sydney Swans spearhead Barry Hall says he “wiped out a season” trying to recover from public criticism of his 2006 AFL grand final flop, and AFL legend Michael Voss claims it would be unfair for people to hinge Saturday’s grand final result on Lance Franklin alone.
Hall said the Swans and Franklin had already proved many critics wrong this season, ranking them among the modern era’s great clubs after they recovered from a sluggish start to the year to reach their fourth grand final in a decade.
Sydney has always had a love for a flamboyant full forward, Franklin following the likes of Warwick Capper, Tony “Plugger” Lockett and Big, Bad, Bustling Barry Hall.
Franklin is the biggest name in the AFL and is aiming to become just the third player to win consecutive premierships with different clubs, and the first to do it against his former club, Hawthorn.
While Hall backed Buddy to soak up that pressure, he said the Coleman medallist’s contribution should not be judged on this Saturday’s grand final result alone.
“If you look at the start of the season there was a lot of talk about whether this was the wrong decision for the Sydney Swans: has he affected the culture?; is he worth the money?; they’ve signed him for nine years. A lot went wrong early,” Hall said.
“It just shows what a good club they are, they stayed true to what they know and they turned it around. Buddy’s a good player and he’s going to be a good player for a long time … he can handle the pressure, so it’s the perfect scenario for him, let’s hope he does play well, they win the grand final and they [critics] stay off his back.”
Hall saw how quickly things can change. The hero who captained the Swans to the club’s first premiership in 72 years in 2005, Hall was widely criticised for his goal-less performance in a one-point loss to West Coast Eagles the following year.
Hall said he trained himself to exhaustion in the pre-season trying to prove critics wrong, but it backfired and his next season was a wipeout.
“I was trying to prove people wrong where I probably didn’t need to,” Hall said.
“You’re your own worst enemy, you try harder and you tense up and it just makes things worse and you end up spiralling put of control because you’re trying so hard to change it and you can’t.”
Voss, the 1996 Brownlow medallist and three-time premiership winner with the Brisbane Lions, said it was unfair that public scrutiny was sitting on Franklin’s broad shoulders.
“In some ways Buddy is going to be the hero or the villain and, to be honest, that’s completely unfair,” Voss said. “There’s been so much focus on him … He’s a super player and I was barracking for him to win the Brownlow actually because I think he’s the best player in the competition. He either kicks his five goals and he’s an absolute superstar or he kicks 2.5, 2.4 and they don’t win and he’s the villain. That’s a really tough scenario, so his job is to not think about all that.”
Hall said the Swans had a forward line to support Franklin, nominating Adam Goodes, Sam Reid and Kurt Tippett as X-factors in their own right.
Hall said if the Swans repeated their 2012 grand final victory against Hawthorn they deserved to be rated alongside the great teams of the modern era.
“Its been 10 years and they’ve only missed out [on the finals] once. If they win this one, they’ll be up there with some of the great teams, like Geelong [three premierships from 2007-11], the Brisbane Lions [three premierships 2001-03], teams like that who have been dominant. The Sydney Swans would be right up there with them.”
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