In the end it was a pull to a calf muscle that put paid to the career of one of the greatest players to ever lace on a boot in the Australian Football League.
Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin yesterday announced his retirement, effective immediately, ending a 19-year career of 354 games with an incredible 1,066 goals, the fourth highest tally on record.
The key forward hobbled off the field in Saturday’s two-point win over Essendon, a 12-week lay-off from a previous calf injury probably already playing on his mind. Within 48 hours he had announced to his Swan’s teammates that he couldn’t do it any longer after 10 seasons with the club.
Franklin did not attend the press conference announcing his departure, but despite a disappointing finish, the 36-year-old walks away from the game as an eight-time All Australian player and a four-time Coleman medallist.
Swans coach John Longmire told the assembled press pack:
“Obviously what happened on Saturday night I spent a little bit of time with him in the change rooms after the game and then got some news last night after he had his scan it was probably going to be a six-week scenario.
“He then rang me when I was sitting on the plane, he was pretty emotional and devastated that would be the way it’s finished.
“He said last time he did a calf injury like that was in the same spot and missed 10-12 weeks of football.
“So, he said ‘I’m done’.”
Buddy knew how to lift and would do so in those crucial moments.
A proud Whadjuk-Noongar man, and a member of the Indigenous Advisory Board, throughout his career Franklin was an advocate for Indigenous Australians.
In 2017 Franklin was one of many players who wore the number 67 on his back during the Sir Doug Nicholls round in acknowledgement and commemoration of the 1967 referendum which saw Indigenous Australians included in the census.
He has previously spoken of the time he spent at Sydney with Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin having cultivated his passion and helped him realise his potential to be a role model for Indigenous children. Still, he could only watch playing alongside Goodes as his career was ended prematurely during the booing controversy, and allegations of racism from opposing fans.
Longmire said not only had Franklin had a remarkable career on the field, but his impact on AFL in New South Wales had been profound, adding when Franklin arrived at the club “the interest (in AFL Football) went through the roof in Sydney”.
“He helped us transcend the generational changes that we were making within our team… He’s helped us put bums on seats,” Longmire said.
Franklin generated an unseen amount of interest in AFL within NSW since starting with the Swans. His 1,000th goal in round two of 2022 was just the tip of the iceberg of the excitement he brought to the club.
To put it simply – Buddy Franklin is a legend. A legend who is retiring after a historic career.
He's a player that reminds you what watching sport is all about.
I'll never forget the crowds running on to the field at the SCG last year when he scored his 1000th goal. pic.twitter.com/FdaI0UNeT3
— Chris Minns (@ChrisMinnsMP) July 31, 2023
He arrived at the Swans at the end of 2013, after playing eight-years of football at Hawthorn, where he led the club goal kicking for six out of eight years.
In the year before Franklin came to Sydney the club had 36,358 members. In the following year they surpassed 40,000 and hit a record 62,000 members this season.
Buddy Franklin’s career goals against each team compressed from 18 years into two and a half minutes.
One the greatest players I’ll probably ever see. pic.twitter.com/POC0q9hyKD
— Kyle Pollard (@KylePollard) August 2, 2023
“He was the most beautiful field kicker I had ever seen,” said Longmire. “[Buddy] knew how to lift and would do so in those crucial moments.”
Asked who could fill his boots at the club, Longmire said: “It’s impossible to fill a hole left by Buddy Franklin.”
Throughout his 19-years as an Indigenous first-grade player, Buddy has watched the AFL landscape completely shift, a lot of which is credited to the group of Indigenous players that he was proudly a part of.
One of the best forwards of his generation, the legacy Lance Franklin leaves is steeped with rich history, culture, mind-bending skills and elite athleticism, that few will ever come close to.