IF Bendigo Advertiser sports writer Luke West came to me two days ago with a $10 donation from the Addy to place on my premiership tip, it would have been Hawthorn by a long way.
I think with Luke Hodge playing more footy, Jarrod Roughead another year on from serious injury and youngsters like Luke Breust and Isaac Smith developing, the Hawks would have been very hard to beat.
The landscape has changed.
I consider Lance Franklin the most important player to any team’s premiership hopes.
Lance may not be as consistent as Gary Ablett, but he does give the Hawks enormous flexibility as he can be dangerous deep, across half-forward or even running through the middle towards goal.
The decision by ‘Buddy’ to defer his contract talks is an interesting one.
Liam Pickering, his manager, and Buddy, would have seen the chaos surrounding Travis Cloke and his contract talks in 2012.
There will be differences. Pickering is a first-class manager, and although Buddy is not an A-grade media performer, I am sure he will not go public with private matters like Travis Cloke did.
The main concern for the Hawks is that not only have their previous endeavours to avoid this been overlooked, it has now opened the door for other clubs to circle.
Every club will enquire about Franklin, some will have room in the salary cap, others will start to find ways to squeeze him in and some clubs will simply not be genuine players.
Adelaide has been up front early, it is in the mix.
Essendon delisted experienced bodies that may expose its kids earlier to fit in Goddard – a player that the Bombers see as pivotal to their improvement – other clubs will do the same.
GWS, Port Adelaide, Fremantle, St Kilda and Brisbane are all clubs that easily come to mind in the need of an elite, tall, agile star.
This season will be a real test of Hawthorn’s inner workings and culture.
Buddy has made his intentions clear – he wants to stay a Hawk – but somewhere in early negotiations there has been a reason to halt talks.
Whether it is the term of the contract or simply a monetary issue, we will read about it throughout the year.
The Hawks’ season will now have distractions and they are aware of that.
Will Buddy handle the pressure better than Cloke? Will Hawthorn learn from Collingwood’s mistakes? Will it affect Hawthorn’s premiership tilt?
I believe the answer to all of these questions is yes.