From the grandstand: Cyril or Buddy?

16 August 2011

Written by: Ben Waterworth

Saturday’s match between Hawthorn and Port Adelaide was one of the most entertaining clashes of the year.

Huh? Crazy, right?

How could the neutral footy fan have possibly enjoyed a game which ended in a 165-point margin? How could anyone have found any joy in a club sinking to the lowest point in its history?   

Come on down Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli – perhaps the two most exciting footballers in the AFL.

Whether it was on the ground or in the air, the two Hawks stars produced a collective highlights package to savour on the weekend. Unlike the video cassette or the Hawaiian shirt, the highlight reel they produced will never reach obsolete status.

Rioli zigzagged his way to six scintillating goals from 16 touches and 12 tackles. Franklin was just as deadly in front of goal, booting eight majors from 17 disposals and eight marks.

They were so breathtaking you had to flip a coin to determine the better player on the day.

With the footy, Rioli was pure class. Without it, he was a tiger stalking its prey as it prepared to pounce. However Franklin’s physical strength was scaringly impressive and his kicking for goal turned into a master class.

The question was inevitably raised by the SEN commentary team. Who’s the more exciting player to watch: ‘Buddy’ or Cyril? It’s a luxurious question that has split the footy community in half.

Rioli is a special player. Every time he gets his hand on the footy, he conjures a magic trick.

The small forward’s sixth and final goal against the Power on Saturday showcased both his defensive and offensive skills. He chased and tackled a lethargic Kane Cornes in the left-forward pocket, then picked the ball up in one hand, sprung to his feet and slotted a miraculous goal from the boundary line on the wrong side for a left-footer.

Mark Stevens wrote in the Herald Sun on Monday that, according to Champion Data, Rioli has been the most damaging player in the competition over the past month. Since returning from a hamstring injury, 38 of his 57 disposals have led to a Hawthorn score. Only Geelong’s Steve Johnson and St Kilda’s Stephen Milne rival him.

Footy pundits have been crying out for Rioli to spend more time in the midfield for many years now. But when he’s causing so much havoc for opposition teams in the most dangerous area of the ground, why would you want to move him?

But what about Franklin?

Right now, there’s no greater big man in the game then Buddy. He’s as strong as an ox and is impossible to conquer one-on-one.

Once he has the ball inside forward 50, you know the scoreboard is about to change. His goal sense is scary, hence why he’s the only forward in the modern era to kick over 100 goals in a season, back in 2008.

However Franklin’s biggest asset is his aerobic capacity. He covers an unbelievable amount of territory for a big man, a quality Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson has tried to expose this season by playing Franklin more through the midfield.

In full flight, Buddy runs as gracefully as a gazelle, burning off opponents with enormous steps. Remember his three-bounce, running goal against Essendon in Round 13, 2010?

So which player would you pay money to see: Rioli or Franklin?

You’d pay money to see both of them.

Personally, I’d pay more money to watch Rioli. There’s an air of expectation when Rioli grasps the footy, because you’re never sure what he’s going to do with it. But you always know something good will come of it.

But if I was a recruiter and had first pick in the draft, I’d take Franklin every time. Big forwards don’t grow on trees and he’s more than a big forward. He’s unique, invaluable and a freakishly talented asset who can change the course of a game in an instant.

No matter which player you think is more exciting, it’s a huge luxury for Hawthorn to have two quality players such as Franklin and Rioli in the same forward line, let alone the same team.

If both men are firing come September, watch out for the Hawks.

Ben Waterworth is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is upstart’s former sports editor. You can follow him on Twitter: @bjwaterworth