ALASTAIR Clarkson came to Hawthorn's recruiting team with a request.

It was coming towards the end of 2004 and the Hawks, fresh from finishing second from the bottom on the AFL ladder, were preparing for their first national draft with Clarkson at the helm.

Armed with three top-10 picks and facing a pivotal moment in the club's list rebuild, Clarkson had his priorities set. Never afraid to air his thoughts, he wanted to make sure the club's recruiters were on the same page.

"He said: 'With the first three picks, I'd like to get two key positioners and a midfielder … if that's possible'," the club's head of recruiting at the time, Gary Buckenara, told this week.

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So, Hawthorn's talent spotters went to work ranking the best key position players and the best midfielders in that year's draft crop. But, when it came to identifying the bookends for Clarkson's vision, their job was scuppered somewhat.

Lance Franklin during a national draft camp in Canberra in 2004. Picture: AFL Pictures

Buckenara had travelled to Western Australia to catch a glimpse of a young key forward named Lance Franklin, playing for the state's under-18s side against an open-age group of amateur and country players.

However, presumably keen to get a grip of what made Franklin such a special goalkicking talent, Buckenara only got a quarter to sample the evidence. In that space of time, the teenager forced a change to be made for the betterment of the spectacle.

"He started at centre-half forward, but he kicked five goals in the first quarter and basically buggered the game for everyone else," Buckenara said.

"They put him to centre-half back just so he didn't destroy them completely. I thought, 'gee this kid has some talent'. He was as skinny as a rake, but he was athletic, quick, tall. He was very left-sided, but he had some freakish ability.

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"We continued to watch him through those years, he developed and he always stood up when he needed to stand up. He put enough runs on the board to be one of the top-10 draft picks."

DRAFT CAMP (L-R): Jordan Russell, Cameron Wood, John Meesen, Fabian Deluca, Ivan Maric and Lance Franklin watching on at the Australian Institute of Sport in 2004. Picture: AFL Photos

Nearly two decades on, Franklin has emerged – and then remained – a generational and game-changing talent. He has kicked 995 goals and, on Saturday evening, has the chance to become just the sixth player in AFL/VFL history to reach the 1000-goal landmark.

His first 580 goals came in Hawthorn colours. His next 415 have arrived wearing Sydney's uniform. But in an alternate universe, perhaps one with recruiters less savvy than those at the Hawks, a fair portion of those might have been booted elsewhere.

At Clarkson's request, Hawthorn's scouting team eventually whittled their list of key position prospects down to a top-two: Franklin and Jarryd Roughead. Even now, Buckenara finds it difficult to split them.

Jarryd Roughead and Lance Franklin with the cup after the 2013 Toyota AFL Grand Final clash between Hawthorn and Fremantle at the MCG. Picture: AFL Photos

The club had two top-five selections, located at picks No.2 and No.5, and went about playing some cat-and-mouse with the teams around it. Richmond, who had just finished last, had picks No.1 and No.4. The Western Bulldogs had pick No.3.

In doing their due diligence, the Hawks uncovered that the Tigers – who had already settled on taking Brett Deledio with the first selection – also liked Roughead. It somewhat made up their mind in terms of how they would determine their draft order.

"We pretty much knew Richmond was going to go with Brett Deledio with pick No.1 and we later found out that Jarryd Roughead was probably going to be their pick at No.4," Buckenara said.

"We heard on the grape vine that they weren't all that impressed with Buddy, with his interview and they thought he might have struggled a bit off-field with his over-confidence maybe.

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"In the end, we knew we wouldn't get Roughead at pick No.5 … but we were a chance to get Buddy there. So we took the plan to take Roughead at No.2 and, in the end, Richmond picked Richard Tambling at No.4 and that allowed us to go with Buddy at No.5."

Terry Wallace with Richmond's 2004 draft haul (L-R) Brett Deledio, Richard Tambling and Danny Meyer. Picture: AFL Photos

The critique of Franklin's "over-confidence" wasn't just limited to Richmond, though. It was a widespread view at the time. But it was one that Hawthorn never factored into its decision making.

"There were a few question marks back then, a lot of clubs thought he was a bit over-confident and wondered how he would go in the new AFL environment and being in the limelight," Buckenara said.

"He was confident enough as a kid. But that's a good thing, I think. You want to see kids with belief in themselves. Buddy probably had a little bit of an extra strut or whatever in his step and in the way he handled himself, but I found him to be a really good lad.

There were question marks around what his tank was like, but he got to Hawthorn and (fitness boss) Andrew Russell said, 'this bloke has untapped potential with his VO2 max read-outs

- Gary Buckenara

"He had all of the traits. The thing that is the unknown is how much do they actually want it? We see plenty of players come through with enormous amounts of talent, but when push comes to shove they haven't been prepared to bust their gut.

"Buddy, to his credit, worked extremely hard. He was a really hard trainer, hard worker and he got the best out of himself. You've got to give Buddy himself some credit for ability to do the hard work and maximise the talent that he had."

That talent has been used, predominantly, in the forward line. Franklin's 995 goals, soon to be 1000, have resulted in two premierships, four Coleman Medals, eight All-Australian appearances and two Goal of the Year triumphs.

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Lance Franklin's goal of the year in 2010 with Cale Hooker chasing

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He was the leading goalkicker at Hawthorn six times, a feat he's replicated a further six times at Sydney. He's had one 100-goal campaign and an unbelievable 12 seasons worth 50 or more goals. He's kicked more than 10 goals in a single game on two occasions.

But the precocious skills he showcased as a junior could have been replicated in more areas than just through the forward line, according to Buckenara. That was something even Hawthorn identified very early on.

"He had a bit more to his game than just being a brilliant forward," Buckenara said.

"He could've been a fantastic midfielder as well. There were question marks around what his tank was like, but he got to Hawthorn and (fitness boss) Andrew Russell said, 'this bloke has untapped potential with his VO2 max read-outs'.

"He's not only got speed and long strides, but he's got endurance and he can keep running. I don't think he ever really pushed himself as a junior, he just played on his raw instincts. We found out a lot of things once he got into our environment.

"He blossomed in that environment, he put on strength – I think that was the biggest thing, he became very strong but didn't lose any of his athleticism – and he became a very hard player to match up on because of all of those traits he had."

Having selected Franklin – along with Roughead and Jordan Lewis at pick No.7 – in his first ever draft as the club's chief recruiter, Buckenara has watched his remarkable career unfold with a great deal of pride.


But, as for his favourite moment – and a moment that he believes would go on to define Franklin's record-breaking career – he goes back to 2007 and a seven-goal haul in the superstar's first ever final.

Lance Franklin celebrates with the crowd during the elimination final between Hawthorn and Adelaide at Marvel Stadium in 2007. Picture: AFL Photos

"I was over in Adelaide at the time, we'd finished watching a game and we'd come to the airport to fly home. We were watching the last part of that final and he kicked the goal from outside 50m to put the Hawks in front," Buckenara said.

"That photo of him turning around in front of the Hawks supporters who were all up with both hands in the air and he's got his hands out … that just typifies Buddy. It was just a brilliant moment for a young guy in one of his first finals.

"To do that, I think that sort of set the scene for the Buddy-isms of the future. He just made the stage his own. He loved it and he performed on it."