Who has the power to swing a game?
Just as Prime Minister Julia Gillard swiftly changed the state of the Labor Government, Hawthorn superstar Lance “Buddy” Franklin is having a similar effect, kicking freakish goals to stabilise the Hawks.
Just weeks ago, the Hawks almost wrote themselves off. In May, I wrote on The Punch that Hawthorn’s season appeared to be over, after losing five consecutive games and suffering with a long injury list.
It appeared bleak for the Hawks, who had slipped dramatically from reigning premiers in 2008 to virtual easybeats. After winning the last seven games on the trot, Hawthorn has revived its match-winning powers and are sitting pretty in the top eight.
While Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell are key leaders directing Hawthorn’s traffic on the field, “Buddy” Franklin has come to life, repeatedly kicking challenging goals under pressure.
Buddy’s boundary-line goal heroics against Essendon was described as the best performance in this modern era. How has Hawthorn’s fortunes changed so suddenly?
Buddy has regained his fitness this year and has the confidence to execute his skills, while dodging and out-playing his opponents.
It’s been a big bonus for the Hawks to have their forward line firing again. It rubs off on the entire line-up.
Buddy has been the catalyst for a Hawthorn revival, with his energy, freakish skills and his ability to thrive under pressure.
Buddy is the envy of other clubs, with many not having the luxury of a superstar to swing a game.
But there are clubs with players who have the aptitude to revive a team down on luck. Geelong’s superstar Gary Ablett will always have that capacity to swing a game and Blues skipper Chris Judd is in a similar league.
Speaking of league, who are the match-winners of the NRL?
Billy Slater is a gun who has been Storm’s key match-winner has relied on in recent years, although the Melbourne-based team is a sorry story this season. Slater can only find genuine satisfaction in State of Origin this year.
Israel Folau is all class, leading the NRL’s try-scoring board (are you sure you want to switch codes, Izzy?) and Penrith’s Michael Gordon is having a first-class season, as the NRL’s top point scorer.
Darren Lockyer, as captain of the Maroons, is as steady as they come and rock-like under pressure, although he is not as youthful as he once was.
And when you look at the off-field influences, I look no further than seasoned NRL coach Wayne Bennett, who has been able to turn around the attitudes and capacities of young men, who have been willing to excel in rugby league.
If someone wants to learn how to swing a game, show leadership on the field and make life-changing decisions, Bennett’s gospel as good as anyone’s. Bennett, one of Australia’s best gurus of motivation and life coaching, has a knack of getting his message across simply.
And we’ve seen dozens of fine young league men who’ve adopted Bennett’s words and have made something of themselves - even after retirement.
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