Lance Franklin might missing through injury, but he still might have more influence on the result today than Collingwood key forward Travis Cloke

THE two most talented teams in the competition play today and both club’s fans would look to their key forwards to play huge roles in the outcome of the game.

Hawks fans know their man Lance “Buddy” Franklin won’t and Pies fans must have serious doubts whether their man Travis Cloke will.

I suspect that despite all the talk from the Hawks defending the decision to play Buddy against Greater Western Sydney, internally they know his hamstring injury should never have happened.

Franklin should be lining up today and his absence is a massive blue.

The moment he pulled up sore against Carlton he should have been ruled out of the Giants game.

Buddy revealed to On the Couch that after the Carlton game there was bleeding in the hamstring.

All clubs have medical meetings early in the week to determine the health of the list. Clearly most players are sore and the list of ailments is often long but not too serious.

As the Hawks medical staff went from A to Z there is no doubt the player the coaches most wanted to hear about was Buddy.

The moment the words “scan”, “soreness” and “inflammation” were mentioned in the same sentence, Buddy should have been ruled out.

This is where the coaches must step in.

If the Hawks had been playing Collingwood the following week, it would have been a completely different discussion.

But they were not.

They were playing against the Giants at the MCG with the Western Bulldogs, Collingwood and Essendon to follow.

Why is this a coaching staff decision and not a normal medical player discussion?

Simple: players — particularly the greats of our game — are there to play and will try to play under any circumstances.

The medical staff’s role is well-defined — do everything possible to have all players available to play every week.

Last year we saw Buddy and the staff working a football miracle to get him up for the final against Sydney.

The same could be said for the Cats and Steve Johnson before the Grand Final.

Let’s not kid ourselves, the Hawks beating the Giants by 162 points will never be mentioned in the same breath as the other two incredible wins.

The Magpies coaches will be pleased that their Hawks counterparts didn’t make the obvious decision.

The Hawks can still win, but their chances drop without Buddy.

Tactically, it becomes a different game.

Buddy takes all the forward heat and focus — and most importantly the best defender.

This is particularly important for Jarryd Roughead, who plays on the next best tall.

He can also be released as the second ruckman knowing that they still have a gun forward to kick to.

This is no longer the case with Buddy on the sideline.

Buddy is a momentum changer.

He can kick a goal out of nothing and restore confidence in his teammates and put doubt in the opposition’s mind.

In form, he keeps the scoreboard ticking over. Perhaps most important is the mindset of both teams as they run out on the MCG today.

Buddy fills the Hawks players with enormous belief and confidence.

Equally, he fuels the fear, doubt and nerves of his opposition

The Pies’ back six certainly slept better last night knowing that Buddy is in the grandstand today.

Cloke’s situation has little to do with Nathan Buckley and his coaching team, but is causing similar headaches.

He seems to be working very hard in games, but his form is down on his best.

He appears to be playing with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

A weight that possibly would be lifted by signing a new contract.

Collingwood seems to have put a fair offer on the table; by all accounts it appears that both parties aren’t too far away.

My guess is that the club won’t budge on some of Cloke’s demands because of a fear of setting a precedent that they can’t follow with many of their star players.

While all player contracts are different, my experience tells me there must be some consistencies.

Believe me, manager’s talk and details get out.

Collingwood has plenty of stars that may be watching the Cloke deal very closely.

The Pies must put a deadline on the offer.

As good a player as Cloke is, he can’t be seen above Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury.

It can’t drag on until September and potentially distract the Pies from winning the flag.

The Hawks plan should be to double-team Cloke where possible and keep him out of the game early.

They will also feel that if they can force him up the ground to get his touches he will be nowhere near as effective.

Cloke has always been reasonably predictable with his possessions, often wheeling on to his left foot, kicking the ball long and deep.

Once it seemed to have purpose and direction, but now that kick seems to be out of frustration.

Get it and kick it as far as possible every time with little thought to the outcome.

The move of Chris Tarrant forward looks to be a clear sign that Chris Dawes and Cloke need help.

I like the move and if Tarrant can continue to be a dangerous forward then Cloke’s indifferent form becomes less of a problem for Buckley.

Both clubs go in to today’s match in terrific form and have arguably the two best centre half-forwards in the competition.

Despite obvious concerns over the two, I suspect Franklin and Cloke are still going to have a huge say in who wins the game today.

Clearances +129 pts (6th) +233 pts (1st)
Turnovers +170 pts (5th) +405 pts (1st)
Kick-Ins -52 pts (18th) -1 pt (10th)

Hawthorn has scored from 29.7 per cent of clearance wins – the second-best in the league. The Hawks allow their opposition to generate a score from 20.4 per cent of clearances – the equal-second lowest percentage conceded by any side.

Hawthorn has punished 28.4 per cent of opposition turnovers with a score this season – the highest of any side. It has been punished with a score from 19.5 per cent of its own turnovers, which is he fourth-lowest percentage conceded by any side.

Ave. Inside-50 Differential +4.3 (Eq 10th) +13.6 (1st)
Ave. Marks Inside 50 11.5 (9th) 13.5 (Eq 1st)
% Score Once Inside 50 50.4% (6th) 55.4% (1st)

Hawthorn averages the equal-most marks inside-50 of any side this season (13.5 per game) and retains possession from 49.7 per cent of kicks into the forward 50. That is ranked second in the league behind Collingwood, which retains possession from 50.1per cent of kicks into the forward 50.

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