Buddy Franklin made sure Alex Johnson’s emotional return to the AFL was a winning one.
Following a six-year hiatus from the game, including five knee reconstructions, Johnson made an incredible return to the game against the Collingwood Magpies as the Swans prevailed 73-71.
In a post-match interview with Channel Seven, Franklin commended Johnson on his miraculous return.
“What a great story, he’s such a resilient bloke,” said Franklin.
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Franklin defied a restrictive heel injury, which has prevented him training this season, to boot three goals in the first quarter then ignite a third-quarter fightback.
The Swans, down by 17 points at the major break and fearing a defeat that would all but ensure they miss finals for the first time under John Longmire, sparked to life and held a 18-point lead when Franklin slotted his sixth goal about 17 seconds into the final term.
The Magpies, who were without Moore for almost three quarters because of a suspected hamstring injury, rallied in style and reclaimed the lead when Travis Varcoe kicked his fourth goal of the night.
Franklin hit the post, for the third time in the low-scoring arm-wrestle, before McCartin somehow got boot to ball at the bottom of a pack to kick a scrubby goal with two minutes remaining.
A frantic series of smothers, spoils, tackles and kicks under immense pressure followed, with Isaacc Heney holding a clutch mark in defence to defuse the visitors’ final foray forward.
“It was a tough game of football. We had to find a way to win the game, backs against the wall. I couldn’t be more proud of the boys,” Franklin said.
“I was beaten the last two times, convincingly. I wanted to bounce back, it’s not good when you’re not playing at your best. I had to get back to basics.
“It’s going to be a tough three weeks but we’re excited by it.”
Collingwood ruckman Brodie Grundy produced arguably the highlight of his stellar season, helping himself to 57 hitouts while generating nine clearances, but couldn’t drag his side over the line.
With Franklin’s first opponent Moore unavailable, debutant Jack Madgen often had the job on the four-time Coleman medallist during the second half.
Coach Nathan Buckley was already in the midst of an injury crisis. Especially in defence, where Lynden Dunn, Matthew Scharenberg, Ben Reid and Jeremy Howe were absent.
The Magpies, who face Brisbane, Port Adelaide and Fremantle in the final three rounds of the regular season, squandered a golden chance to bolster their bid for a coveted double chance come September.