Sydney goalsneak Tom Papley has backed the Swans’ young key forwards to become AFL match-winners in the absence of a “shattered” and injured Lance Franklin.
The club revealed on Thursday that 300-game superstar Franklin had suffered another hamstring injury, which was slightly worse than the one which sidelined him for two months last season.
“He’s obviously shattered, its bad timing for him, but he’s a champion of the game and we know he’ll bounce back,” Papley said on Friday.
With Franklin and fellow marking target Sam Reid (calf) sidelined, the Swans are likely to field a similar forward line against Essendon in round two to the one they did in their opening round win over Adelaide, which both men also missed.
Isaac Heney kicked four goals playing as a key forward that day.
“Isaac is going to be massive for us as well, down forward and we’ve seen in round one, not many players can match up on him,” Papley said.
He predicted 24-year-old Heeney and even younger players had chances to step up and fill the massive shoes of Franklin and Reid who between them have kicked almost 1100 goals .
“The likes of Tommy McCartin, Nick Blakey (both 20 years old) are going to get the ball kicked to them more,” Papley said.
“They can really stand up and have confidence in themselves to kick a bag of five or kick a bag of four.
“Sometimes we rely on Bud to win the game for us and now these guys, these young kids can stand up and win games for us.”
Franklin’s multiple injury issues in 2019 and 2020 have caused some to wonder whether his career might be over, but Papley warned against writing off the 33-year-old superstar, who is seventh on the all-time goal kicking list with 944.
“He’s a champion of the game, if not the greatest player of all time, so he’ll be back out there for sure,” Papley said.
“If people are writing him off good luck.”
With 83 games under his belt, 23-year-old Papley is one of the more senior members of the Swans forward line and has no issue taking on more leadership duties with Franklin and Reid missing.
Sydney’s leading goalkicker last season, Papley sought a trade to Carlton for 2020 despite being contacted to the Swans, but didn’t get his wish.
Asked on Friday about whether he would pursue that option again after this season, Papley said “I haven’t thought about it.”