Buddy Franklin's near-anonymous showing in Sydney's horror AFL grand final loss to Geelong has raised doubts about his ability to perform at a top level when he returns next season.
Following the conclusion of the mammoth nine-year, multi-million dollar deal he signed with the Swans back in 2013, Franklin announced during the week before the decider that he would be coming back on a one-year deal in 2023.
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Franklin unfortunately had arguably one of the worst games of his illustrious AFL career last Saturday, kicking just one behind from a total of five disposals.
Geelong's defence might as well have been a brick wall for the Swans, with Cats defender Jack Henry wearing Franklin like a glove for most of the afternoon.
The 35-year-old wasn't the only Sydney star to have a sub-par outing against the Cats in the demoralising 81-point defeat, but several
The 35-year-old wasn't the only Sydney star to have a sub-par outing against the Cats in the demoralising 81-point defeat, but several former AFL greats have expressed concern that Franklin's elite athleticism has begun to wane.
Poor finals displays against the Cats and Melbourne - when Franklin was towelled up by Steven May - have raised concerns ahead of what is set to be his last AFL campaign in 2023.
"Leigh Matthews made a great point after the game when he said that (Franklin's) athleticism has allowed him to play as a running, mobile forward, but he hasn't got that anymore," Essendon great Matthew Lloyd told the Nine Network.
"He has to play like a key forward for the rest of his career, and that's not what he is.
"They (Geelong) played Jack Henry on him, who's got the mobility to go with him, but then he (Franklin) hasn't got the aerial ability.
"It's going to be a real challenge for him next year.
"He has to play like a Jonathan Brown or a (Wayne) Carey in his last year, which he isn't, because he can't move like he used to."
Franklin managed just two goals from 23 disposals across three finals matches, with both majors coming in the second quarter of the Swans' preliminary final win over Collingwood.
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Former premiership star Kane Cornes raised concerns not just about how the devastating loss would impact the Swans as a club, but also how it would affect Franklin heading into his final season.
"Two of his worst games in the whole of his career have come in this finals series," Cornes told the Nine Network.
"Firstly, he was badly beaten against Steven May and yesterday he just had the butter fingers early, wasn't reading the ball in flight.
"Whilst there wasn't a whole lot of opportunity for him, he's clearly not the same player that he was."
Cornes had criticised Franklin throughout the year for putting off contract discussions until after the season, before accusing him of stealing the spotlight in the week before the grand final by announcing his swan song in Sydney.
Having earlier accused Franklin of selfishness back in August after the prolific goalkicker put off contract discussions until after the season, the announcement of his one-year extension prior to the grand final left the former Port Adelaide star wondering if Franklin had robbed the Swans of focus.
“I’m fascinated by the scenario around it,” he told Footy Classified in the week leading up the the grand final.
“If I’m being super critical, I think this is an individual thing to do to announce it.
“He should have waited until after the grand final, but that’s being incredibly picky on an absolute legend of the game.”Henry found out on Wednesday he would be playing on Franklin, who he idolised before being drafted, but said plans were initially for he and Sam De Koning to share the job.
"I played on him when he kicked his 1000th goal (in round two) and he gave me a bit of a bath that day," Henry said.
"Nothing much sort of changed. I was a bit rustier earlier in the year. I just needed to get to his body and try my best to beat him in the air."
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