Star Sydney Swans AFL recruit Lance Franklin hasn’t generated many positive headlines so far, but can take some credit for the club’s record membership figure.
Sydney announced on Tuesday they had broken their membership record of last year by signing up 36,370 people before Saturday’s first home game of the season against Collingwood.
The Swans have added 6723 new members this season, saying many of them have come through the club’s successful recruitment program, Nominate Your Mate.
However, there’s no doubt Franklin’s much heralded arrival has also helped boost the figure and generated more media exposure.
His first few months at the club have been marked by his modest on-field returns and rumours of an off-field rift with teammates, which club officials have dismissed.
Franklin proved his pulling power before the season, when about 1000 people turned up to watch the usually sparsely attended Swans annual intra-club hitout.
While there’s no way to quantify how many new members were attracted by Franklin’s arrival, his Sydney and former Hawthorn teammate Josh Kennedy had no doubt it was a factor in the upward spike.
“I think it would be quite ignorant and naive of me to think not,” midfielder Kennedy said.
“It’s great what he’s brought and I guess you have to take the good with the bad.”
Kennedy said some of the media coverage had been over the top, including rumours of a bust-up between Franklin and veteran midfielder Ryan O’Keefe.
He said some of the rumours were laughable and the players were having fun with them, and weren’t being distracted by the off-field stories.
Kennedy will chalk up his 100th game for Sydney, having played all of them consecutively, after being a fringe player with the Hawks.
He was their best and fairest in Sydney’s triumphant 2012 premiership campaign and has never been out of the top three in his first four years with the club.
“The transition has been really fruitful for me,” Kennedy said.
“I want to keep improving and keep getting better and keep returning the faith the Swans have put in me.”
Kennedy, who like coach John Longmire is signed up to the end of 2017, said he would like to remain at the club for the remainder of his career.
The third generation of his family to play for Hawthorn, Kennedy revealed not all of the clan were comfortable about him being a Swan.
I think I’ve succumbed to the fact that John senior will never be a true Blood, but the rest are coming around,” he said.