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.
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.”
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.
Sad to know that Lance Franklin’s played his last ever #AFL game, but what a player he’s been over 18 years. Kicked 1,066 goals but did so much more than that on the field and what a great sight he was to watch. Congrats on a great career Buddy!
— Andrew Lucas (@LucasLowdown9) July 31, 2023
Buddy Franklin, one of the all time greats. What an incredibly sad day for footy.
It’s been a pleasure watching him play the game I love.
A vivid memory I have of him is watching him torch Daniel Talia on the members side of Adelaide oval. https://t.co/5S3xXGwjQW
— AlexanderV (@PedlarFan) July 31, 2023
So Buddy Franklin is going to retire. Shame it had to end like this. The end of an era. One of the greatest of all time. 🐐
— Skippy Johnston 🦘 (@LukeAFoley) July 31, 2023
The curtain has fallen on a magnificent career.
For me, when naming an all-time fave player, it's always been a back-and-forth between Buddy & Cyril. They both had pure electricity, like absolutely anything was possible.
Hero. Icon. Legend. Congratulations, Lance Franklin! 🤎💛 pic.twitter.com/iHqQgek6vc
— Hawk Talk Podcast (@HawkTalkPod) July 31, 2023
Lance Buddy Franklin what a career mate.
I'll forever be grateful for watching you live for such a long time.
Running down the wing vs essendon, kicking goals from outside 50 and the list goes on and on.
Amazing career mate. pic.twitter.com/csNnDGkila
— Naim (@goldandbrown4) July 31, 2023
Those who know me know Buddy is my favourite AFL player of all-time. A man who brought me an extraordinary amount of joy over 19 years’ career has come to an end. Absolutely devastated he didn’t get the farewell game he deserves. There will never be another Lance Franklin. 😔❤️
— Jack Powell (@JackPowell43) July 31, 2023
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.
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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