Buddy Franklin 'devastated' amid absence from retirement press conference

The Sydney Swans and Hawthorn legend has made a heartbreaking call after an injury saw him subbed out of his final AFL game.

Buddy Franklin is pictured wearing a tracksuit as the Swans sing the team song on the left, with a headshot on the right.
Buddy Franklin has announced his immediate retirement from the AFL, after suffering a calf injury during last weekend's win over Essendon. Pictures: Getty Images

AFL superstar Buddy Franklin has announced he will be retiring effective immediately, following a calf injury that saw him subbed out of Sydney's narrow victory over Essendon last weekend. Speculation has swirled around Franklin's future for much of the season, after he signed a one-year contract extension just prior to the Swans' grand final defeat at the hands of Geelong in 2022.

Franklin will go down as one of the greatest forwards in AFL history, having played 354 games and booted 1066 goals to date. The 36-year-old informed teammates of his decision on Monday morning.

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Drafted by Hawthorn in 2004 with the fifth pick in the AFL draft, Franklin helped the Hawks to their premiership triumphs in 2008 and 2013 before making a highly publicised free agency move to Sydney ahead of the 2014 season. He won Coleman Medals in 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017, as well as a number of earning eight All Australian selections.

Franklin took to Instagram on Monday with a post referencing his decision. Accompanied with pictures of himself and teammates in the Sydney rooms, he wrote: "What a journey. Thanks to everyone who has been on this crazy ride with me".

The Swans held a press conference to formally announce Franklin's retirement on Monday afternoon - but Franklin himself was absent, with head coach John Longmire explaining it had been an emotional few days for the 36-year-old. Scans on Sunday had revealed the calf injury would have left Franklin sidelined for up to eight weeks - effectively ending his season and with it, his stellar career.

“He rang me when I was sitting on the plane,” Longmire said during the press conference. “He was pretty emotional and devastated that could be the way it’s finished.

"It certainly sounded like he’d made the call there and then. I said, ‘Sleep on it and we’ll get up and have a chat this morning’. I went to his place this morning. He said ‘I’m done’. I think the best way to do it is to call it now.”

Sydney Swans CEO Tom Harley and coach John Longmire.
Sydney Swans CEO Tom Harley and coach John Longmire speak to the media in Buddy Franklin's absence. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Swans CEO Tom Harley said Franklin had left an indelible mark on the sport. He said Franklin's combination of skill and unparalleled athleticism had made him one of the most unique players in the game's history.

"Lance is an icon of the AFL and will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play this game," Harley said. "Lance has that rare ability to transcend footy and has brought so much joy to fans for more than a decade now.

"He is a champion and will leave a lasting legacy, not only at the Sydney Swans, but within the AFL and broader community. We wish him, Jesinta, Tallulah and Rocky all the very best for the future. They will always hold a close place in the heart of our club."

The AFL world erupted with tributes when the news was announced on Monday afternoon. Many reminisced about the many memorable moments Franklin was at the centre of.

His 1066 career goals leave him fourth on the all-time AFL goal-kicking list, one of only six players to kick more than 1000 in league history. He prompted memorable scenes in 2022 when he reached the milestone, with Swans fans flooding the MCG when his kick sailed through the goalposts.

Buddy Franklin to be remembered as all-time AFL great

Franklin's move to the Swans was one of the biggest shocks in AFL history at the time, with many having believed a move to the GWS Giants was on the cards for much of the year leading up to it. Instead, the AFL world was left stunned when it was revealed he was heading to the Swans on a nine-year deal worth roughly $10 million.

He would go on to play 172 games for the Swans, adding a further 486 goals to his tally and playing in the losing 2014, 2016 and 2022 grand finals. He played 182 games for Hawthorn, kicking 580 goals.

Buddy Franklin.
Buddy Franklin's memorable 18-year AFL career is at an end. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

He remains the most recent player to surpass 100 goals in a single season, having done so in Hawthorn's premiership season back in 2013 with 118 majors across the regular season and finals. Their grand final win over Fremantle that year was his final game in Hawks colours.

Only the likes of Tony Lockett, Gordon Coventry and Gary Ablett Sr. have kicked more career goals than Franklin. He was responsible for many goal of the year candidates over the years, with is charge down the wing and boundary line shot with Essendon's Cale Hooker in hot pursuit among the most memorable.

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