‘Who the f— are you?’: The day I lined up on Buddy

For a player fighting for his career and trying to get his head around lining up on the most dominant forward in the game, it was a scary experience.“He absolutely had no idea who I was,” Lonergan recalls about the first time he played on ‘Buddy’. “He had that sort of look of, ‘Who the f— are you?’ type of attitude with this peacock strut as he came towards me.”Stream every match of every round of the 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free In-Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >The Herald Sun Footy Podcast – PlaylistLonergan had played forward when Geelong and Hawthorn squared off in the 2008 grand final but in an attempt to find a niche, he’d been shifted to defense the following year.“I was in and out of the team at that point and I thought the only way I get to stay here is if I do a job on him and keep him quiet,” he says.“I played OK on him and kept him quiet and then I got a bit of recognition after that game. From then on that was the match-up and we played Hawthorn so often after that.“I reckon for the first five games I did OK but everyone was worried about playing on Buddy because he was a superstar who’d kicked 13 goals in a game.“If you’re an average defender, your career can be lost in one game if he kicks a bag of 10 on you. So you’re sh–ing bricks going into every game against him.” Geelong great Matthew Scarlett was very happy to see Lonergan come down to the back half and take a player, who he rates in the top three of all-time, off his hands.“He was one of those young players who you knew was just going to be amazing,” Scarlett says.“There is a player every few years, a young player who you just know is going to be a superstar. He was definitely one of those.“I played on him in the ’08 grand final, which was the year he was right up and about (Franklin kicked 113 goals), he was averaging 10 or 11 shots a game that year.“I remember that being not only just an ordinary day because we lost but a hard day for me having to try and put Buddy away.“I played a pretty negative game that day and tried to keep Buddy to one or two and I managed to do a reasonable job.”As Franklin prepares to tackle Geelong at the SCG on Friday night, four goals short of 1000, Scarlett reveals that it was the star forward’s agility and 199cm frame that made him so dangerous.“You can beat him in the air but once it hits the ground then he is elite at that as well,” he says.“A lot of the other gun forwards, if you get it to ground then it’s all over and I sort of had the ability to beat them to the next contest or get the ball and run off.“But Buddy would beat you to the ground ball and be really hard to stop in the air. “He’s one of those players where you can have a good game on him but he’d still kick four or five on you, he’s that good.”TRYING TO DIG THE BUDDY DIRTAlipate Carlile knew he had to come up with something different. The Port Adelaide full-back had tried numerous times to limit Buddy Franklin but hadn’t really had much success.But this time he had a plan, and it involved Buddy’s sister Bianca.“My now wife (Joanna) lived with his sister and I was around there and said, ‘C’mon give me some dirt’,” Carlile explains. “She goes, ‘No, no. I’m giving you nothing’. I was shattered.” Carlile had some memorable moments on the superstar and is amused that he features a couple of times on Buddy’s top 10 highlights package.One forgettable day at the MCG in 2011, Hawthorn thrashed Port Adelaide by 165 points with Buddy kicking eight goals while sending another four or five out on the full.Then there was a day at the SCG when he was playing for Sydney, where he turned three Port defenders, including Carlile, inside out on the wing and kicked the goal from outside 50m on the wrong side for a left-footer.“The one he kicked on the wing is in his top 10 highlights and I think I’m in it twice from the same game as I remember on this day we were playing a zone defense from the kick-in,” Carlile explains. “Anyway the ball got to him on the wing and he turned around off four steps and kicked it straight through. He then came up to me and tapped me on the bum and said, ‘That’s the last time you zone off me big fella’.“It was always good fun playing on him and sometimes you just had to sit back and clap.”Carlile is in the top five Franklin opponents to have spent 40 minutes or more in a match on him according to Champion Data, with the former Power defender getting the honor on eight occasions.Lonergan leads the way with 12, while former GWS skipper Phil Davis, who helped deny Buddy his 1000th goal in Round 1, has stood the superstar 11 times.So,how do you stop him?You never really stop him but over the years Lonergan, who played 209 games including the 2011 premiership, figured out a method that seemed to be able to limit the damage.“As the years rolled on I changed my starting position to be in front,” Lonergan explains.“I always preferred to play from behind because then you know where your player is and where the ball is.“If you play in front sometimes you lose your man, you can get lost wh ere your player is if they do a double lead or a triple lead.“But I used to back myself to play in front of Buddy because I thought if I could force them to kick a long high ball in I’d back myself to get back and put a bit of body on him.“He wasn’t the type of player to take the big contested mark too often but if he got two meters on the lead then you were gone.”Scarlett, who has also tried to curb Franklin in the coaches’ box during his time as a Geelong assistant, says his old team needs luck on their side on Friday night.“It’s the same as when you’re playing, you just hope for the best really,” Scarlett said. “The guy on him is going to have a tough day as you know the ball is going through him a lot.” With these great players you sort of hope they have a bad day without doing much to them. “I reckon Dusty (Martin) sort of goes through a little bit of that where some days maybe they can’t be stuffed.” The days he doesn’t play well, I’m not sure it’s his opponents doing a good job, I reckon it’s him just having a day off and I reckon Buddy is the same.“Because he’s almost impossible to stop when he is up and going.”

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