“And now, the end is near and so I face the final curtain. My friend, I’ll say it clear. I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full. I travelled each and every highway and more, much more than this I did it my way.”
Lance “Buddy” Franklin has decided to retire, effective immediately, ending a glittering and decorated AFL career spanning 19 seasons, 354 games and 1066 goals for Hawthorn Hawks and Sydney Swans. Franklin will deservedly be remembered as one of the true greats of the game. Buddy was a freakish talent who was capable of the impossible and, in his prime, was an unstoppable force. Fullbacks would have nightmares matching up with him. At 199cm and 102kg, Buddy was lightning fast and loved running his opponents ragged, particularly at the Melbourne Cricket Ground during his tenure at the Hawks. His booming left foot and trademark arc whilst kicking for goal were his trademark.
When Buddy kicked his 1000th goal at the Sydney Cricket Ground against my beloved Catters, he reached a pinnacle only five people before him managed to achieve and most probably never will again! Buddy finished his career 4th on the all-time AFL goalkickers list behind Lockett, Coventry and Dunstall and just ahead of Wade and Ablett. What an amazing list to be a part of! To put this in perspective, Jack Riewoldt and Tom Hawkins are at 782 and 779 goals respectively. Lance has scored 284 goals more than Jack from 10 more games and 287 more goals than Tom in 8 more games! It’s incredible to think that no-one in the AFL presently is averaging 3 goals per game. Was Buddy the last of a dying breed? It certainly looks like it.
He was a prodigious talent. As a football fan, you had to admire the sheer brilliance he was able to produce on the football field. All you could do as an opposition fan was shake your head in disbelief about Buddy’s ability to turn the game on its head in a blink of the eye. Did he have a weakness in his game? Well, he wasn’t the best overhead mark but because he was so incredibly strong and quick off the mark, he didn’t have to be. Was he the most accurate kick for goal? No, but he positively impacted the scoreboard more often than not. His 1066 goals and 742 behind at an average of 3 goals a game would strongly suggest this!
Did he produce his best footy during September? His statistics wouldn’t suggest so, but he did have moments of brilliance across his finals journey as a Hawk and a Swan. He is still kicked 74 finals goals which is more than Lockett, Ablett and Wade. The problem was the high expectations people placed on him to be that consistent match winner. If he didn’t reach these lofty expectations, it was considered a failure. The most recent example of this was his solidary behind in last year’s 83-point loss to the eventual premiers, Geelong.
So the question here is, was his time at Sydney considered a failure compared to time at Hawthorn? If you’re using premiership wins as a barometer of success, you’d have to say yes! Grand Final losses to Hawthorn, Western Bulldogs and Geelong Cats during his time as a Blood would eat away at him due to a lack of more premiership glory wearing the red and the white. You know who Bloods are don’t you readers? The Swans players and wider footballing community whose metamorphosis from Swan to Blood only occurs during the final series. It’s almost like they’re back at their spiritual home of Lake Oval during this period. My apologies, I’ve digressed slightly here ladies and gents, but my point is, which Buddy Era was greater? Well, let’s dissect, shall we? First of all, Lance Franklin is only the second player in AFL history to kick 300 goals for two clubs. The other, Anthony “Plugga”
Lockett who kicked a staggering 898 goals the perennial wooden spooners St Kilda Saints and 462 goals for the Sydney Swans.
· 182 games, 580 goals for Hawthorn Hawks 2005-2013
· 2x Premiership Winner (2008 and 2013)
· Peter Crimmins Medallist 2008 (Hawks B&F)
· 4x All-Australian (2008, 2010, 2012, 2014)
· 2x Coleman Medallist (2008 and 2011)
· 6x Hawks Leading Goalkicker
In comparison, his list of accomplishments for the Sydney Swans are as follows:
· 172 games, 486 goals for Sydney Swans 2014- 2023
· 4x All-Australian (2014, 2016, 2017 and All-Australian Captain for 2018)
· 2x Coleman medallist (2014, 2017)
· 7x Swans Leading Goalkicker
As you can see, the only thing that eluded Buddy as a Swan was further premiership success. After three failed attempts, does this constitute his time in The Harbour City as a failure? It depends on who you ask I suppose. Tony Lockett or Gary Ablett failed to win a premiership during their careers. Does this diminish their stellar careers? Saying this, I feel that the Sydney Swans didn’t get the best version of Lance Franklin. Injuries and father time severely hampered his ability to play at the level we saw him play week after week as Hawk. One wonders what would’ve happened if Buddy stayed with Hawthorn or as rumoured in the press, he signed for the Greater Western Sydney Giants. To be honest, any supporter would’ve loved the chance for their team to sign Buddy. He would’ve looked great in the Blue and White hoops playing on Kardinia Park every couple of weeks.
A sincere and heartfelt congratulations to Lance “Buddy” Franklin for an incredibly successful career. You have left an indelible mark on the great game of Australian Rules Football.
“…I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried. I’ve had my fill, my share of losing. And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing to think I did all that and may I say, not in a shy way. Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way.”
You sure did Buddy. You sure did!
Until next time, may your team still be in the hunt for finals footy. Or, if you’re like me a tragic Cats supporter, grasp on tightly to being Premiers for a few more weeks before September becomes largely irrelevant for the remainder 2023 season. Hot tip, Melbourne Demons will be too good for the Colliwobbles in the decider. Brodie Grundy to star against his former team, collecting the Norm Smith Medal for a best on ground performance.
Seven Hills Bombers AFC U’13s Most Improved for the 1991 season.