Buddy Franklin has endured an interrupted AFL pre-season for the Sydney Swans, head coach John Longmire has admitted, as doubts are raised about the veteran forward's long-term availability for the club in 2023. Franklin, who became the sixth player in VFL/AFL history to kick more than 1000 career goals last season, signed a one-year deal to extend his career with the Swans in the wake of last year's lost grand final.
Speculation that Franklin would retire after last season had gained traction prior to Sydney's loss to Geelong in the 2022 decider, before the two-time premiership player ultimately decided to play on. However Franklin's impact will be noticeably lessened in 2023, with Longmire declaring the 36-year-old 'won't play every week'.
HUGE SURPRISE: AFL world reacts to news about Jason Castagna
Franklin played only the second half of Sydney's pre-season loss to Brisbane last weekend, with Longmire suggesting Franklin would be building his way into the season as it progresses. After having his training load managed so far in pre-season, Longmire said it would be some time before Franklin was at 'full power'.
“It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to say we don’t expect him to play every week, every minute of the game … at 36, it can be a real challenge to do that,” the coach told RSN. “He’s had a bit of a restricted pre-season – he only played a half last week.
“He hasn’t been going at full power through the pre-season, so the plan is to build him up again this week, and it will take a few weeks for him to hit his stride.”
The Swans were thumped by Geelong in last year's grand final, with questions subsequently raised about the wisdom of selecting Franklin, as well as a clearly underdone Sam Reid, who had raced to recover from injury in time. Both players had a negligible effect on the grand final, which Geelong won convincingly by 80 points.
However Longmire was confident in the players who were on the field that day, pointing out that Geelong had suffered an embarrassing defeat of their own in the previous season's preliminary final. Based on the way Geelong's veteran list found another level last season, Longmire said he had no reason to believe his own side could not lift in a similar manner.
“Those things unfortunately happen, we dealt with it at the end of last year … we didn’t live up to the test on grand final day against the most mature team that has played in the competition in Geelong,” Longmire said.
“They were at the other end of the spectrum – they certainly played very well and they deserved it – they’re a great team, and they got beaten the year before by 80-odd points in a prelim final.”
Sydney bullish about 2023 season after devastating AFL grand final defeat
The Swans couldn't match it when the Lions went up through the gears in the second half of last weekend's pre-season hitout, despite boasting a similar line-up to what appeared in the grand final last year. Errol Gulden had goaled in just 17 seconds for the Swans, with Chad Warner and Isaac Heeney continuing their strong 2022 form.
Intercepting defender Aaron Francis was quiet in his first game after crossing from Essendon, slotting into a backline role. Monster 209cm ruckman Lachie McAndrew competed well as he searched for an AFL debut in his third season on the Swans' list, while
The Swans were missing a string of first-grade talents including Tom Papley, Nick Blakey, Tom Hickey and Robbie Fox. Brisbane's two premiership-winning recruits wasted little time making an impact for their new club with Josh Dunkley and Jack Gunston impressing in their first outing.
Each goaled in the first term of their 15.9 (99) to 8.6 (54) win, Dunkley quickly forming an imposing centre-bounce partnership with Lachie Neale while finishing with two majors. Gunston was a constant marking target inside 50 and instantly made the Lions a more threatening outfit, slotting 3.2 playing alongside key forwards Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood.
No.2 draft pick Will Ashcroft immediately looked a star in the making, going to the midfield for the second half and shining with a number of centre clearances, the son of three-time premiership Lion Marcus making the strongest possible case to debut in round one. Dunkley and Neale were prolific and Brisbane's midfield stocks will only be improving, Dayne Zorko and Jarrod Lyons both missing the practice run with injuries but expected to be fit for round one.
Neale copped a big knock in the third quarter and appeared to be holding his arm as well as shaking off a leg cork, but played through any pain. Irishman Conor McKenna looked to have lost none of his dash on his return to AFL, the former Essendon former providing drive off half-back although he lacked precision by foot.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.