Clarkson plays down Franklin's talent - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Clarkson plays down Franklin's talent

By Laine Clark 20/04/2008 12:54:56 PM Comments (0)

It seems the only man who can keep Hawthorn rising star Lance Franklin quiet is his coach Alastair Clarkson.

The youngster dubbed "Buddy" is hardly living up to his cuddly moniker this season as he tears rivals apart with his left boot.

He was at it again on Saturday night, banging in a staggering eight goals to seal the undefeated Hawthorn's 12-point win over the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba.

It took his season tally to 29 majors from just five games.

His 196cm, 101kg frame already screams AFL superstar.

And at 21 he is only going to get better.

But Clarkson still attempted something that the Lions defenders could not - he tried to shut down Franklin.

In a desperate bid to keep a lid on the growing hype, Clarkson continued to play down Franklin's goal-kicking heroics.

"His performances have been really pleasing from our point of view," said the Hawks coach, in the early favourite for understatement of the year.

Sooner rather than later even Clarkson will not be able to avoid the pink elephant sitting in the room judging by Franklin's form on Saturday night.

He outmuscled two defenders to win marking contests, kicked goals from impossible angles on the boundary and booted majors from outside the 50 metre arc at full pace.

It was scary stuff.

But Clarkson did not need to look at the Coleman Medal standings to assess Franklin's impact.

"I know he can kick goals from the boundary line and that sort of stuff but the greatest potency for us is he forces a great contest," he said.

"That's been his greatest improvement as a player in my opinion in the last 12 months.

"Early in his career he felt like he had to run away from opponents to take balls, he doesn't have to do that much any more.

"He has developed strength in the gym and the players have got more confident kicking the ball into him long."

At the other end, defender Trent Croad was just as impressive.

In his first game back from a wrist injury, Croad kept Lions co-captain Jonathan Brown to a solitary behind and just 10 possessions.

At least Clarkson talked up his veteran defender.

"Brown is a monster and we were pretty pleased our monster was able to come back and at least be able to contain him because he's a super player Jonathan Brown and Croady did a first class job on him," he said.

Old habits kicked in again for Clarkson when he tried to put some perspective on his young side's incredible start to the season - five straight wins including their first at the Gabba since round 18, 2000.

"We are in territory we haven't been in before for a lot of these players," Clarkson said.

"The guys will be excited by the form that they are in, but they have a long way to go as a footy club.

"We are only early in the season and it is going to be a tough long road."

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