I want to stay a Hawk, Buddy insists
Franklin admits contract issue will be a distraction
North key forward Drew Petrie
FREMANTLE is widely seen as the most likely suitor for Lance Franklin if the star Hawk decides to test the free agency market, but cross-town rival West Coast could be in a stronger position to snare the West Australian later this year.
Like Hawthorn, West Coast faces a nervous 2013 as it attempts to re-sign a host of players ahead of October's free agency period.
The AFL will release the full list of this year's unrestricted and restricted free agents before the home and away season, but AFL.com.au
has compiled a preliminary list that shows Hawthorn has at least six prospective free agents and West Coast at least seven.
There is no shortage of stars among those players. In addition to Franklin, Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell are among the Hawks' free agents, while West Coast's include ruckman Dean Cox, captain Darren Glass, forward Mark LeCras and vice-captain Beau Waters.
Buddy coy on contract
But as keen as the Eagles will be to hang onto such stars, the loss of one or more could ironically free up the salary cap space they would need to land Franklin.
Of course, all Franklin has done at this stage is put off contract talks with Hawthorn until the end of this season.
And even in the event he decides to explore free agency, he is a restricted free agent, which means the Hawks can ultimately keep him by matching any offer from an opposition club.
But the Hawks' ability to match such an offer would be compromised by the lucrative contracts it is likely to offer Hodge and Mitchell. It seems a safe assumption neither the captain nor his predecessor will seriously entertain leaving Hawthorn, and equally safe that the Hawks will move swiftly to ensure that doesn't happen.
The Eagles chose not to comment when contacted by AFL.com.au about their level of interest in Franklin and likely approach to free agency this year.
Franklin's interest in returning to Western Australia is also unclear given his family has relocated to Victoria in recent years.
The other big names set to become 2013 free agents include Magpie Dale Thomas, Demon Colin Sylvia, Roo Daniel Wells and Western Bulldog Adam Cooney.
They will be joined by seven club captains – Nathan van Berlo (Adelaide), Jonathan Brown (Brisbane Lions), Nick Maxwell (Collingwood), reigning Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson (Essendon), Adam Goodes (Sydney Swans), Hodge and Glass.
That number will swell to eight if Andrew Carrazzo beats Marc Murphy and Kade Simpson to Carlton's captaincy ahead of the home and away season.
Meanwhile, Adelaide midfielder Scott Thompson might appear on the AFL's official list of 2013 free agents when it is released. But AFL.com.au
understands that like Hodge and Mitchell last season he has a trigger clause on his 2013 contract that should tie him to the Crows for 2014.
2013 FREE AGENTS
Nathan van Berlo