INDUSTRY figures are split as to whether Lance Franklin will remain at Hawthorn beyond 2013.
canvassed the views of a range of football and list managers and player agents to assess the likelihood of Franklin playing at another club in 2014.
Most believe any club chasing Franklin's signature would need to make a godfather offer somewhere between $1.6 million to $2 million a year to entice him away.
Hawthorn is considered a strong club, in a premiership window, and despite the odd publicity hiccup along the way, the No.23 is said to be comfortable in Melbourne.
Hawthorn would be expected to be capable of offering a little more than $1 million per year to Franklin.
"I'm hearing more and more that he'll probably stay," one leading agent told AFL.com.au
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But the Greater Western Sydney talk won't go away.
"There is pressure for GWS to improve and they need some middle tier players," a club official said.
And Kevin Sheedy is happy to let everyone know there is a barrel of money ready to be distributed and Franklin is top of its list.
Even when the strong rumours of a $2 million offer to Franklin are floated at a media conference.
"We did miss out on Tippett, so we actually have played this year without the money that we probably had for Izzy Folau," Sheedy said on Wednesday.
"So we're probably playing one or two short in that area regarding the salary cap and that's not bad."
Not bad at all. It puts the Giants in a good position.
The Sydney club has the following factors in its favour:
- between $640,000-$1million extra total player payments per year to draw upon due to the expansion club concessions.
- the $900,000 Sydney cost of living allowance to cover for higher prices in Sydney.
- initial signings such as Callan Ward, Tom Scully and Phil Davis with heavily front-ended contracts now two years old.
- money freed up from the departure of Israel Folau two years earlier than planned.
- a young list, many signed until 2015 and 2016, not yet commanding star wages.
Money or salary cap space is not considered much of an issue.
Some believe smoke signals have been sent in the Franklin camp's direction, indicating that the AFL would consider him a candidate to grow the game if he made the move.
Although AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou angrily denied the administration would play any role in luring Franklin north, or any other player, his comments did show that any case presented could receive consideration.
While it is believed the split between football and marketing payment in relation to Folau's multi-million dollar deal was about 40/60, the great majority of Franklin's earnings would need to be football based and sit inside the salary cap.
Any case for an ambassadorial role would have to be made after an initial contract had been signed and there would be enormous public scrutiny of any deal involving the AFL.
However most observers think Franklin's brand could grow the game in the west of Sydney.
A close observer of the Sydney market told AFL.com.au only two AFL players are currently household names in the harbour city and none are with the Giants, now Folau is gone.
Franklin would be the third if he chose to join the Giants, instantly reaching a standing in marketing terms comparable to Adam Goodes.
Don't forget Greater Western Sydney's diverse make-up has an indigenous population of 60,000 people and two AFL Indigenous Academies within its boundary.
Franklin is not only indigenous, with ambitions to be a leader, but he is one of a few athletes that transcends the sport he plays regardless of the market he enters, a star that appeals to all regardless of background in a celebrity age.
On the football front, the Giants can sell the promise of on-field success even more strongly than the Suns were able to do in Gary Ablett's case.
Ablett joined the Suns in its first season, aged 27 with 192 games and nine seasons behind him.
The Giants would have completed two seasons and the 27-year-old Franklin, if he did not miss a game for the season, would have played 170 games in nine seasons.
His teammates would have two years AFL experience behind them. And if Franklin arrived, a few 'fans' with football talent might sidle up in a GWS jumper play alongside him.
Of course, Franklin's manager Liam Pickering (who also manages Ablett) knows what the former Geelong champ has experienced so his advice would be sound on what might face Buddy.
The appointment of GWS coach Leon Cameron is in the club's favour too.
Franklin has gone on the record several times to praise the positive impact Cameron has had on his career.
He reiterated his high opinion of Cameron as a forwardline coach to AFL.com.au
again recently saying the 40-year-old former Hawthorn assistant coach had been "a good role model" for him.
Hawthorn are being patient, respecting Franklin's wish to concentrate on football and hoping he can continue to make a strong contribution to their season.
They are continuing to sign players, keeping business going as routinely as is possible when Buddy keeps turning up without his pen.
There is little doubt the Hawks and Pickering will still be chatting informally, but there has been no indication yet that Buddy has changed his wish to keep negotiations on ice.
When there is no dialogue, clubs can panic.
The Hawks are not at that point yet but the Giants appear to be circling.
And some are starting to believe there are $2 million reasons GWS will make a move happen.
They're starting to sound confident of landing someone big in more ways than one.
"In the end we'll find two or three players at the end of this year and they’ll probably be in our goal-to-goal line," Sheedy said.