Buddy Franklin's AFL future, at least in the short-term, could be in some doubt after the veteran superstar was subbed out of Sydney's thrilling win over Essendon with a calf injury. The 36-year-old, who is off-contract at the end of the season, pulled up short after a sprint up the wing in the narrow two-point victory over the Bombers on Saturday night.
Franklin came from the field mid-way through the second quarter. Commentators were initially unsure why he had come off the ground, eventually being told a calf complaint was the culprit.
After signing a one-year contract extension ahead of the Swans' grand final loss to Geelong last season, many had speculated the 2023 season would be Franklin's swansong in the AFL. His form has fluctuated throughout 2023 as the Swans steadily fell from finals contention - although their effort against the Bombers perhaps indicated otherwise.
The sight of a clearly dejected Franklin sitting on the Swans' bench left many to speculate whether it could have been Franklin's final game, however in the past few weeks he has indicated he could be weighing up another season in Sydney. When he does retire he will go down as one of the best forwards in AFL history, having played 354 games and booted 1066 goals to date.
Veteran AFL journalist Mark Robinson reported in the days leading up to round 20 that Franklin had indeed being weighing up a 20th season in the AFL. He said it was far from a guarantee however, telling AFL 360 that the Swans' willingness to offer him another year was just as big a factor as Franklin deciding to pursue one at all.
“I thought about it driving home last night from the show - OK, where is everyone placed?” Robinson said. “Wake up this morning, make a couple of calls, and Buddy Franklin I think’s open to playing on next year.
"That’s not saying he’s playing on - he might be open to playing on next year, and Sydney will have a big, large play in that decision. I think the last three weeks has given Buddy a bit of thinking time.”
Meanwhile, the news of Franklin's injury left many AFL fans dejected. There are plenty out there hoping that the Hawthorn premiership player gets a fitting send-off, should he indeed choose to hang up the boots at the end of the 2023 season.
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) July 30, 2023
Lance Franklin subbed out of the game in the second quarter. Not sure yet on injury. Cutting a dejected figure on the bench. You'd hope it's not the last time we've seen him play. #AFLDonsSwans
— Andrew Wu (@wutube) July 29, 2023
"He just came off feeling a bit tight in his calf, we don't take any risks with him, we decided to sub him out of the game."
- Swans GM of Football, Charlie Gardiner, with an update on Buddy Franklin's injury.#AFLDonsSwans pic.twitter.com/UniviOYUUv
— 7AFL (@7AFL) July 29, 2023
If that's the last we see if Buddy Franklin, what an amazing career. Won't miss his four goals a game against us, but will miss watching him play. #AFLDonsSwans
— Liam Webb (@bikkyboo) July 29, 2023
There's good news and bad news with Buddy Franklin's injury:
Good news - If it's like Chad Warner's calf injury he only missed 3 weeks.
Bad news - Buddy is 36 and has already been injured this year so it might take him longer to recover.#GoSwans #Bloods #AFLBombersSwans
— Tyler Villagra ❤️🤍 (RIP BLACK MAMBA 26/1/20🙏💔) (@TylerVillagra24) July 29, 2023
Swans withstand late Bombers charge amid Buddy Franklin fears
Sydney led by as much as 37 points early in the third quarter before the Bombers' midfield and inside-50 dominance finally started to impact the scoreboard. Essendon cut the lead to just two points with five minutes left but electric forward Tom Papley stepped up to bomb the Swans' only goal of the final quarter from 60m out.
Jye Menzie goaled back for the Bombers, but it was too late as the ball went back to the middle with six seconds to go and the Swans prevailed 15.11 (101) to 15.9 (99). Sydney could finish the round as high as 10th on the ladder after their finals hopes appeared shot only a month ago.
It was Sydney's final game in Melbourne during the home-and-away season and they will not return this year unless the Swans charge into the finals. The Swans have four matches to come in the home-and-away season, starting with next week's clash with in-form rivals GWS.
"Really tough to win a game of AFL footy at any time, and we played good footy in spurts, but we weren't consistent enough across the whole game," Swans coach John Longmire said. "But we got the win and that's always a good thing."
Sydney will also sweat on the fitness of co-captain Dane Rampe, who spent the last 20 minutes of the match on the bench with calf tightness. But the future looks bright for the Swans post-Franklin with tall forward Joel Amartey stepping up with four goals in the first half as Sydney skipped away to a 19-point lead at the main break.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.