MELBOURNE -- All the talk heading into Friday night's blockbuster clash between Hawthorn and Sydney at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was around the glaring omission of superstar forward Lance Franklin.
The star Swan, and former Hawk, had played in the past 26 meetings between the two modern day powerhouse clubs. However, he was forced to watch the latest instalment of the epic rivalry from the grandstands after failing to recover from a bruised heel which he sustained in Sydney's season-opening win over West Coast.
Franklin's absence posed many questions. Who would provide the excitement? Who could Sydney rely on for goals? How could the Swans compete without their spearhead?
Enter Ben Ronke.
Playing just his third career game, Ronke didn't shy away from the challenge of filling the void left by the future AFL Hall of Famer. Instead, the 20-year-old embraced the opportunity and turned in a mesmerising performance, one that will go down in Sydney Swans folklore.
Ronke, who had been likened to a goal-kicking version of Kieren Jack, booted seven goals as the undermanned Swans came from behind to stun Hawthorn by eight points. His goal haul included Sydney's first five as well as the sealer with less than a minute remaining on the clock after he outmarked two Hawks in the goal square.
"I was a little bit concerned before the game," Sydney coach John Longmire told the media post-game. "I walked out of the coach's room and he was about to walk in and so I asked him where he was going and he said 'I don't know how to get to the ground.'"
"It slipped my mind that he hadn't been here so I'm glad he found his way once he got out there."
He certainly did. In fact, Ronke's seven goals was the greatest individual haul in an MCG debut since Scott Cummins in 1994.
Ben Ronke, take a bow. The third-gamer kicks SEVEN goals as Sydney stun the Hawks by eight points at the MCG on Friday night.
While his last goal may have been the most important given the context of the game, his fifth, which was kicked late in the first half, was truly special. After marking 55m out from goal, Ronke played on and beat his man only to be tripped by Hawks ruckman Ben McEvoy. However, he sprung to his feet almost instantly, regathered and slotted the goal from 45m out.
"I'd be lying if I said [I thought he had that game in him]," Longmire said.
Ronke's array of talent was on full display from the opening bounce until the final siren. He demonstrated pace, poise, strength, accuracy and composure beyond his years.
As well as scoreboard impact, Ronke also laid 10 tackles in a game that is almost certain to land him the Round 8 nomination for the NAB Rising Star.
"What he's been great at has been just applying enormous pressure and he gives real energy," Longmire said. "He and Will [Hayward] in the front half, they charge around with a real energy and have a real competitive streak to them and it rubs off on other players."
In the space of four quarters of football Ronke built a reputation for himself. For a moment, albeit a brief one, Swans fans forgot about Buddy Franklin.