The Sydney Swans have been urged to 'do the right thing' by superstar forward Buddy Franklin and announce that he will be retiring at the end of the 2023 AFL season. After a devastating loss at the SCG to Fremantle, in which Franklin had only four touches, there have been calls for the 36-year-old to hang up the boots at season's end.
Adding to the pressure on Franklin has been Sydney's disappointing season thus far, with the loss to the Dockers leaving them 14th on the ladder with just three wins from nine games. More concerning is the fact that the loss to Fremantle marked the first time in 10 years that Franklin has been held goalless for consecutive games.
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The latest loss prompted former St Kilda great Leigh Montagna to suggest the Swans announce that this will be Franklin's last AFL season now, giving fans an opportunity to give the sure-fire Hall of Famer a proper send-off. Franklin announced he had signed a one-year contract extension with the Swans prior to last season's grand final, which the Swans lost to Geelong.
The eight-time All Australian has kicked over 1000 career goals, won the Coleman Medal four times and played in two premierships - but 2023 is shaping to be something of an annus horribilis for Franklin. Montagna said the Swans and Franklin would be much better off getting ahead of the 'doom and gloom narrative' surrounding their season by farewelling one of the game's greats in fitting fashion.
“There’s going to be a lot of noise and a lot of doom and gloom and a lot coming for Buddy and his form, his place in the team … because we can all see he’s really struggling,” Montagna told Fox Footy. “Before the narrative gets too strong and gets too negative about Bud, I would love to see the Sydney Swans and Bud as a combination come out and make an official announcement that this will be his last season and turn the narrative into a celebration.
"Turn it into something where all the fans can celebrate, in my opinion, one of the top five players to have ever played the game. I think he deserves the celebration and the time to have his farewells and for the fans to be able to recognise him.”
Montagna had support from co-host and former AFL player David King. He said the AFL had failed to give some of its past greats a send-off worthy of their careers and contributions.
“I think the hardest thing to do in our game is exit champions,” he said on First Crack. “I think clubs have got it wrong over the years.
"The exit of Brent Harvey was really poor, I don’t know if we celebrated Wayne Carey enough, Jonathan Brown enough, Gary Ablett Jnr enough. I think Collingwood did it really well with Dane Swan … I like it."
Baffling free kick highlights Buddy Franklin woes for Sydney
Franklin's uncharacteristically bad form was exemplified in one mystifying moment against the Dockers last weekend. The two-time premiership winner was paid a mark in the goal square, presenting him with what should have been an easy set shot from right in front.
Bizarrely though, he opted to play on with Dockers players in close proximity, with Fremantle's Luke Ryan pouncing on the brain fade from the Swans star. Ryan tackled Franklin to the ground, causing the ball to spill from the his grasp - earning Freo a holding the ball free kick to add insult to injury for the out of sorts Franklin.
Montagna, who was commentating the match for Fox, summed up the thoughts of viewers after exclaiming: “What’s he doing? Bud! He just got too excited. He had no need to play on from two metres out. He hasn’t done that in 347 games of football.” Dermott Brereton added: “It’s almost like he lost himself.”
The incident typified the present predicament at Sydney, whose injury crisis also worsened with Callum Mills exiting with a calf injury in the first quarter and key forward Logan McDonald limping off with a left leg complaint. Hayden McLean was also restricted by a calf problem but played out the match.
Freo talls Luke Jackson and Sean Darcy combined to propel Fremantle to the 17-point that sees the Dockers leapfrog Sydney into 12th on the ladder. The loss leaves Sydney languishing in 14th spot.
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