Lance Franklin has suspended contract talks with Hawthorn
THE REVELATION Hawthorn star Lance Franklin has put off contract talks until the end of the season was a surprise in itself. The fact he's done it to avoid the distraction of a contract, as said by his manager Liam Pickering, was doubly so.
That's because history tells us Franklin's decision is unlikely to quell any discussion or debate about his future. In fact, it will only heighten the attention (possible for even a player of the 26-year-old's stature) around Franklin, and his club.
The recent examples are glaring.
Only last week Collingwood midfielder Dale Thomas said he didn't want his contract discussions this year to drag out
like those of his teammate Travis Cloke in 2012, which became a "circus" according to Thomas.
The on-going talks even led Magpies coach Nathan Buckley to say Cloke – and Collingwood's – "brand" had been damaged. But Cloke is the exception in the case of drawn-out negotiations: he signed a four-year deal, with an option of a fifth season, and stayed at his club.
This time last year Brendon Goddard said he wished to stay at St Kilda but would wait until later in the season to open discussions with his club.
As the year wore on it became clearer that was becoming more unlikely. Goddard went on to join the Bombers as the first high-profile restricted free agent to switch clubs, but he wasn't the only big name transfer of 2012.
The announcement from Adelaide in August that it had suspended contract talks with Kurt Tippett was ominous.
"The Adelaide Football Club had an exceptional offer in front of Kurt - and Kurt and his management acknowledge this - but Kurt has made it clear he will not make any decision until the season is finished," Adelaide football manager Phil Harper said in a statement.
And then there was this from Harper, a common theme in delayed contract discussions.
"He wants to focus solely on performing on-field to the best of his ability before considering his future later in the year, and to ensure that the matter does not became a distraction to him or anyone at the club in the lead-up to and during the finals," he said.
Tippett went on to join the Sydney Swans through the NAB AFL Pre-Season Draft after salary cap breaches were exposed.
The 'avoiding distraction' trend was there in 2010, when Gary Ablett was poached from Geelong to the Gold Coast, and in 2011, when Melbourne's No.1 pick Tom Scully defected to Greater Western Sydney.
Pickering is also Ablett's manager. When the Cats and the Ablett camp called off talks in May, 2010, Pickering said it was to "take some heat out of the whole situation."
"It gives him a chance to concentrate on playing, it takes a bit of heat off the club as well ... so they can get on with the job of playing and winning football matches and I just think this way we can address it in the right forum and without having to do it at the behest of everybody else," he told Fox Sports.
In fact, the speculation intensified. As it did when Scully fronted the media in May of 2011, telling reporters "contracts are the furthest thing away from my mind."
Franklin's call to suspend talks until the end of the season doesn't necessarily mean he will leave the club at the end of 2013 as a restricted free agent or through a trade.
But there is little doubt the Hawks, as a result, will be the subject of even greater scrutiny as they strive to make amends for last year's Grand Final defeat.
Follow AFL website reporter Callum Twomey on Twitter at @AFL_CalTwomey.