Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin finishes 2017 with a flourish to win a record equalling fourth Coleman Medal

In the final round of the 2017 home and away season Sydney key forward Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin kicked 10 goals against Carlton at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Saturday, 26 August in a best afield performance to win the fourth Coleman Medal of his career in dramatic fashion. Franklin had entered Round 23 on 59 goals, ranked third in the AFL– five behind league leader Josh Kennedy and one goal behind Joe Daniher. On the final day of the home and away season Daniher kicked two goals against Fremantle and Kennedy was held to one goal against Adelaide, enabling Franklin to become the first player in the 62 year history of the award to win the Coleman Medal after trailing with one round remaining in the season. Franklin kicked 69 goals in 2017 to finish ahead of three fellow key forwards – Josh Kennedy (65), Ben Brown (63) and Joe Daniher (62).

Three days after the 2017 season concluded Buddy was selected at centre half forward in the 2017 All-Australia team, being the only Sydney Swans player selected in the team. It was the seventh time Franklin had been selected in the All-Australia team, having previously been selected in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016. West Coast key forward Josh Kennedy was selected at full forward in this year’s All-Australian team, with Joe Daniher named alongside him in the forward pocket, Ben Brown wasn’t selected but did get nominated in the initial 40 player squad.

As a key forward Franklin is an extremely difficult match-up, combining his size – being 199 centimetres tall and weighing 106 kilograms with phenomenal athleticism that has rarely if ever been seen previously in VFL/AFL history for a player of his size. AFL Prospectus 2017 commented on Franklin’s 2016 season “As a key forward, Franklin excels most commonly in areas associated with mid-forwards. He won the second most uncontested possessions amongst key-forwards and his 8.7 score involvements ranked No. 1. He rated above average for all key measures except for contested marking.”1   The current Men’s Health Magazine edition features Franklin on the cover and recalls a pre-season training session early in his career at Hawthorn when he amazed his team-mates with his performance in 22 sprints of 150 metres against Hawthorn’s best runners including 1999 Brownlow Medallist Shane Crawford. Hawthorn’s Elite Performance Manager Andrew ‘Jack’ Russell recalled “The guys took it in turns to challenge him on different reps but he won every single one.”2

During the 2017 home and away season left-footer Franklin played 22 games for Sydney, averaging 93.4% game-time, 13.6 kicks, 3.8 handballs, 6.9 marks, 5.4 inside 50’s and 3.1 goals per game with a disposal efficiency of 63.4%. Buddy led Sydney for goals, marks and inside 50’s with 118 – 38 ahead of Luke Parker who ranked second, ranked second for kicks and goal assists – one behind Kieren Jack. During 2017 Franklin has set new career highs for total kicks, marks and inside 50’s in a home and away season. Franklin winning the 2017 Coleman Medal extended a pattern of winning this award every three years – having now won this award four times – 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017. With his fourth Coleman Medal Franklin equalled the record for the most times a player has won this award during their career, however the Coleman Medal has only been awarded since 1955, a Leading Goalkicker Medal was awarded retrospectively on July 26, 2004 to the leading goalkicker each season from 1897 to 1954. Franklin is one of five players to lead the VFL/AFL goal kicking four times along with John Coleman, Peter Hudson, Tony Lockett and Doug Wade, only two players have led the league goalkicking more times being two Collingwood spearhead’s – Dick Lee 10 times with the last time being in 1921 and Gordon Coventry six times with the last time being in 1937.

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After kicking four goals in both his first two games of 2017 Franklin played his 250th AFL game at 30 years of age against Collingwood at the SCG in Round 3. At his press conference days before his 250th game Franklin commented on his milestone “My first game was at the SCG and I lined up against Adam Goodes and now I find myself back here, so it’s pretty special. It’s pretty incredible to get to 250.” When asked what the highlights of his career have been Buddy responded “The premierships and finals football, I’ve been fortunate enough to be at two incredible footy clubs that play finals footy every year.”

When asked ‘Who has been the biggest influence over your career?’ Lance replied “Probably the coaches, Alastair Clarkson and Horse (John Longmire) — they’ve taught me a lot across my journey. I’m very thankful that I’ve had two unbelievable coaches.”

After Sydney lost their first six games of 2017 the club was on the bottom of the ladder. Sydney defeated Brisbane by 54 points at the SCG in Round 7 to record their first victory of the season with left-footer Franklin best afield. In his dominant performance against Brisbane Franklin had a team-high 16 kicks, an equal game-high nine marks, a game-high seven inside 50’s, six marks inside 50, took an equal game-high two contested marks, had one goal assist and kicked eight goals – six more than the second ranked player for the game, and was damaging with his ball use to have a disposal efficiency of 75%.

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During the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round in 2017 – Round 10 from Thursday May 25 to Sunday May 28 several players in the AFL wore number 50 or 67 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Australian referendum. As a result of the 1967 referendum two references in the Australian Constitution which discriminated against Aboriginals were removed. Franklin was one such player in this category – wearing number 67 for Sydney’s Round 10 game against his old club Hawthorn. Jake Lloyd who was Sydney’s leading disposal winner to the end of Round 9 suffered a concussion in the opening minutes and took no further part in the game against Hawthorn. Franklin was sublime, having 12 kicks, four handballs, an equal team-high six marks, five inside 50s, a game-high four contested marks – two more than the second ranked player for the game, had one goal assist and kicked five goals – two more than the second ranked player for the game. Franklin won the Goodes-O’Loughlin medal for being best afield and Received 9 votes in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award – equal with Hawthorn’s Shaun Burgoyne who like Buddy decided to wear number 67 for the game. It was fitting that in the Friday night game of Indigenous Round two of the greatest Indigenous players of all-time in Franklin and Shaun Burgoyne were the best two players on the ground.

Sydney built momentum to win eight of nine games from Round 7 to Round 16 to have a record of eight wins and seven losses. In a massive Round 17 game at Spotless Stadium against cross-town rival the GWS Giants who were entrenched in the top four Franklin excelled, having 16 kicks – ranked second for Sydney, took an equal game-high eight marks, had one goal assist, six inside 50’s and kicked a game-high four goals in the 13 point victory. Franklin received the maximum 10 votes in the AFL Coaches Association Player of the Year Award for his brilliant performance.

During his exhilarating career Franklin has twice won the AFL goal of the year award – in 2010 and 2013. Since the AFL introduced weekly nominations for the goal of the year in 2001 Franklin is one of only two players along with Eddie Betts to win the goal of the year award multiple times, with Betts having won the award three times – 2006, 2015 and 2016. Franklin has a chance to emulate Betts as a three-time winner of the award as one of his goal’s in Round 22 this year against Adelaide is one of the three goals in the running to be crowned goal of the year with the other finalists being Richmond’s Daniel Rioli and Adelaide’s Eddie Betts who is attempting to win the award for the third season in a row. Early in the third quarter of the Round 22 game against Adelaide at Adelaide Oval Franklin gathered the ball on the wing with Adelaide defender Daniel Talia trailing him, Buddy took two bounces and fumbled the ball when he tried to catch it after the second bounce, this allowed Talia to close the gap on him, Franklin ran to 40 metres out and kicked a goal a couple of metres in from the boundary with the ball landing a metre before the goaline and bounced through for a spectacular goal. Franklin’s goal was remarkably similar to the one he kicked for Hawthorn in Round 13, 2010 with Essendon defender Cale Hooker in pursuit to win his first AFL Goal of the Year Award. Franklin had 13 kicks, three handballs, five marks, 12 contested possessions and kicked a team-high three goals in the three point win against Adelaide.

Against Carlton in Round 23 Franklin had a game-high 21 kicks, team-high 10 marks, six inside 50’s, 11 contested possessions, kicked 10 goals, two behinds and had a disposal efficiency of 76%. Franklin was the first player to kick 10 goals or more in an AFL game since Josh Kennedy in Round 2, 2015 against Carlton. It was the second time Franklin had kicked 10 goals or more in a game with the previous time being when he kicked 13 goals for Hawthorn in Round 12, 2012 against North Melbourne at University of Tasmania Stadium.

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For his performances in kicking a total of 18 goals in four games from Round 20 to Round 23 Franklin won the AFL Players Association Player of the Month Award for August, he gained 30% of the vote to finish ahead of Dustin Martin with 25% of the vote. During August Franklin averaged 18.3 disposals, 6.0 marks, 5.8 inside 50’s and 4.5 goals per game.

The 2017 All-Australian team contained 12 players who were selected in the team for the first time, whilst 10 players had been selected in the team previously, led by Franklin with seven selections, ahead of Patrick Dangerfield (5), Alex Rance and Joel Selwood (both 4). Franklin’s seven selections is equal with Wayne Carey and Nathan Buckley and is one behind the All-time record of eight All-Australian selections held by Gary Ablett jnr, Robert Harvey and Mark Ricciuto. As well as leading the AFL for goals during 2017 Franklin also ranked sixth in the league for marks and fourth for inside 50’s – only one behind the two players ranked equal second midfielders Patrick Dangerfield and Shaun Higgins. Highlighting Buddy’s ability to make use of his great aerobic capacity and deliver the ball inside 50 whilst also leading the league for goals kicked he was one of only four players to rank in the 40 of the AFL for goals and inside 50’s along with midfielders Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield and Dayne Zorko.

Without question the form team of the AFL is the Sydney Swans who after losing their first six games of the home and away season have turned it all around in phenomenal fashion to win 15 of their next 17 games, with both losses being to arch-rival Hawthorn by six points. Sydney finished sixth on the ladder at the end of the home and away season and are the first team to make the finals in VFL/AFL history after losing their first six games of the season. After their early season struggles Sydney only finished six premiership points and percentage behind the minor premiers the Adelaide Crows. Remarkably the gap between the top six games is smaller than the margin of eight premiership points between Sydney in sixth place and Essendon who finished seventh.

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In Saturday evening’s elimination final at the SCG Sydney defeated Essendon by 65 points. After getting a corkie early in the game Franklin kicked three goals in the first five minutes of the second quarter and a total of four goals for the term. With Sydney holding an unassailable lead Franklin spent the entire last quarter on the bench and finished the game with seven disposals and four goals. Sydney play a semi final against Geelong tonight at the MCG with the winner of this match to play a preliminary final against Adelaide on Friday, September 22 at the Adelaide Oval.

 With five years remaining on the unprecedented nine year contract he signed with Sydney at the end of the 2013 season Franklin, currently 10th on the list for most goals kicked in VFL/AFL history with 860 looks almost certain to become the sixth player to break the 1,000 goals barrier, he is likely to surpass Gary Ablett snr (1,030 goals) and Doug Wade (1,057) to finish his career with the fourth most career goals in the competition’s history. There is a gap of just under 200 goals from Wade to the player ranked third in Jason Dunstall (1,254), with Tony Lockett topping the list (1,360) followed by Gordon Coventry (1,299). Franklin will turn 31 years old in late January next year, making him 35 years old when his lucrative nine-year contract with Sydney concludes in 2022. Franklin has kicked between 60 and 82 goals in eight of his last nine seasons with the exception being 2015 when he missed seven games and kicked 47 goals. Keeping a pace of between 60 and 82 goals a season would result in him kicking his 1,000th goal either late in 2019 or early in 2020, whilst he requires close to 80 goals a season to catch Dunstall in five seasons time.

Franklin’s AFL career from his debut until the end of the 2016 season is summarised below. The week after Franklin kicks his 1,000th goal Milestones and misses will publish an article comprehensively covering his phenomenal career.

Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin was born in Perth on 30 January 1987 and grew up in Dowerin, a town approximately 150 kilometres north-east of Perth, Western Australia. Lance’s dad, Lance snr played field hockey for both Victoria and Western Australia whilst his mum Ursula was an accomplished netballer, Franklin has four siblings all sisters – Katherine, Rechelle, Bree, and Bianca who played elite level netball. Lance’s dad gave his son the nickname ‘Buddy’ to avoid confusion.

Franklin’s profile in the AFL Record Guide to Season 2005 said “Strong, left-footed key position player who rose to prominence in draft calculations because of his combination of size, pace, agility and sharp skills with the Hawks taking him with their second pick at No. 5.”3 At the time of being drafted as a 17 year old Franklin was 196 centimetres tall and weighed 90 kilograms. Hawthorn had finished 2004 second last on the ladder out of 16 teams with four wins, percentage ahead of Richmond who won the wooden spoon and one game behind the Western Bulldogs in 14th place. 2005 was Alistair Clarkson’s first season as head coach of Hawthorn and he was adamant that the club needed two young key forwards. The Hawks knew that Richmond would select Brett Deledio at number 1 and that the Western Bulldogs would select Ryan Griffen with pick three and they needed to be strategic to get the two young key forwards they were after. The Hawks knew that if Jarryd Roughead was available at pick four Richmond would select him, however the Tigers weren’t as keen on Lance Franklin so would overlook him and select a small player instead. The only way Hawthorn had a chance of recruiting both Roughead and Franklin was to select Roughead with pick two so that is what they did. Richmond selected Richard Tambling with pick four which allowed Hawthorn to select Franklin with pick 5 and achieve the desired result of recruiting two key forwards. With their third selection in the top 10 the Hawks recruited midfielder Jordan Lewis at pick 7. This trio played a key role in Hawthorn becoming a powerhouse of the AFL with all three becoming All-Australians and playing in multiple premierships for the club.

In Round 1, 2005 at 18 years and 57 days of age Franklin made his AFL debut for Hawthorn against the Sydney Swans at the SCG, he had six disposals, five inside 50’s and was scoreless on debut in the 63 point loss to Sydney, he went on to play 20 AFL games in his debut season. After winning five games in 2005 and finishing 14th, Hawthorn improved to finish 11th in 2006 with nine wins, four games behind the Western Bulldogs in eighth place.

Buddy commenced 2006 in the VFL after missing the first two rounds with an ankle injury, he also missed Round 7 due to a hand injury and made his first AFL appearance in Round 9, playing the remaining 14 games in the AFL and twice kicking six goals in a game. Franklin played a total of 34 games from 2005-2006, averaging 10.9 disposals and 1.5 goals per game.

Hawthorn finished fifth at the end of the 2007 home and away season with 13 wins to be one game ahead of the eighth placed Adelaide Crows who they played in an elimination final at Etihad Stadium. In Hawthorn’s first final since 2001 Franklin delivered a breath-taking best afield performance for a young Hawks team against an experienced Adelaide outfit, having 11 kicks, one handball, seven marks and kicked seven goals including the match winning set-shot goal from 52 metres out on the left half-forward flank in the last 30 seconds of the game to take Hawthorn from three points behind to three points in front. Franklin reached 50 goals in a season for the first time in 2007 – kicking 73 goals and averaging 13.3 disposals per game. Buddy finished equal sixth in Hawthorn’s 2007 best and fairest to record his first top 10 finish.

Franklin had a dream 2008 season, well and truly announcing himself as a superstar of the competition, kicking his 100th goal of the season in Hawthorn’s final home and away game against Carlton and winning the Coleman Medal for the highest goal kicker in the AFL at the end of the home and away season. Franklin became the fifth Hawthorn player to win the Coleman Medal, joining John Peck (three Coleman Medals), Peter Hudson (four), Leigh Matthews (one) and Jason Dunstall (three).  Hawthorn recorded 17 wins and five losses during the 2008 home and away season to finish second, four games behind Geelong who won the minor premiership and had won the 2007 Grand Final by the greatest winning margin of all-time – 119 points against Port Adelaide. Franklin starred in Hawthorn’s 51 point qualifying final win against the Western Bulldogs with eight goals and an equal game-high four contested marks. In the preliminary final Hawthorn were a class above St Kilda, winning by 54 points to progress to the Hawks first Grand Finals since 1991. Despite having had only 11 scoring shots at half-time Hawthorn led by three points over Geelong who registered six goals and 12 behinds. Hawthorn kicked six goals to three in the third quarter to gain the ascendancy and set up a 26 point win and Hawthorn’s 10th premiership. In the Grand Final victory Franklin had seven kicks, five handballs, four marks, two goal assists and kicked two goals.

The profile for Franklin in AFL Prospectus 2009 said “Last year Franklin became the first player to score 100 goals in a H & A season since Tony Lockett in 1998 and the youngest to do so since Lockett in 1987. He produced one of the best seasons by a forward in recent times as he was able to completely dominate the forward arc. His tally of 242 disposals inside 50 was 42 more than any other player, while he led the competition in total marks inside 50, contested marks inside 50 and groundball-gets inside 50, a remarkable achievement in itself.”4  During 2008 Franklin averaged 15.3 disposals and 4.5 goals per game, he had 201 scoring shots for the year, kicking 113 goals and 88 behinds to be the most recent player to kick 100 goals in a season. Franklin kicked his 100th goal of the season in the first quarter of Hawthorn’s Round 22 game against a Carlton  outfit which included Franklin’s closest rival for the Coleman Medal – Brendan Fevola who started the final round six goals behind Franklin. Although Fevola didn’t kick his first goal of the game until early in the third quarter he finished the game strongly to end the home and away season on 99 goals, three behind Franklin.  

Franklin was named in the All-Australian team for the first time, being named at full-forward, he was joined in the team by one Hawthorn team-mate – Luke Hodge at half-back. Franklin won the Hawks 2008 best and fairest with 216 votes, 39 votes ahead of runner-up Sam Mitchell, with Luke Hodge finishing third on 175 votes and Jarryd Roughead fourth on 172 votes. Franklin ranked second at Hawthorn for kicks with 308 – just five behind Sam Mitchell, third for marks, fifth for hardball gets and first for Brownlow Medal votes with 20, however due to being suspended Franklin was ineligible, Western Bulldogs midfielder Adam Cooney won the Brownlow with 24 votes. The Coleman Medal 2008 article in the AFL Record Season Guide 2009 said “It was Franklin’s unique armoury of weapons that had commentators and spectators everywhere reaching for superlatives. In just his fourth season and just 21, Franklin terrorised opposition defenders, who might have been able to counter him on the lead, in marking contests or at ground level – but not all three.”5

Hawthorn had a disappointing 2009, only winning nine games for the season to finish in ninth position six premiership points and percentage behind Essendon in eighth place. The Hawks improved to finish seventh in 2010, losing an elimination final in Perth against Fremantle and re-emerged as a premiership contender in 2011. In 2011 Franklin had his best season since 2008, winning his second Coleman Medal with 71 goals during the home and away season during which Hawthorn won 18 games to finish third, two games behind minor premiers Collingwood and one game behind second placed Geelong. After being 17 points in front at three-quarter time of their preliminary final against Collingwood Hawthorn were well placed to make the Grand Final however Collingwood fought back to hit the lead at the 19 minute mark of the last quarter. Franklin responded by kicking a spectacular dribble goal from the boundary line in the right forward pocket to put the Hawks in front by four points, however Collingwood midfielder Luke Ball responded by snapping a goal to secure a three point win for Collingwood.

The profile for Franklin in AFL Prospectus 2012 said “Franklin was the No. 1 ranked forward in the competition last season, leading the league for scoreboard impact and booting 82 goals – the second-highest tally of his career. As expected he was the most used forward 50 target in the AFL, used for 26% of Hawthorn’s kicks to a target inside 50. He ranked No. 1 for disposals and marks in this zone and his versatility was unmatched as he was the only player in the competition to rank in the top 10 for both forward 50 marks and groundball-gets. He was kept goalless just once, booting at least three goals in all but four games and was involved in 36% of scoring chains – the highest percentage of any player in the AFL.”6  Despite missing three games Buddy kicked 71 goals during the home and away season to win the Coleman Medal by nine goals from Jack Riewoldt and Travis Cloke. Franklin polled 20 votes at the 2011 Brownlow Medal to equal his career-best set in 2008, in the intervening years he polled four votes in 2009 and 10 votes in 2010 having kicked 61 and 64 goals (including finals) in each season respectively.

Hawthorn won the minor premiership in 2012 with 17 wins, percentage ahead of Adelaide in second position and one game ahead of Sydney and Collingwood in third and fourth position respectively. After defeating their nemesis from the previous season – Collingwood by 38 points in a qualifying final the Hawks progressed to a home preliminary final against Adelaide and won a thrilling free-flowing contest by five points. Hawthorn went into their 2012 Grand Final against Sydney as favourites, however just like their previous Grand Final in 2008 the underdogs prevailed. Sydney were far more accurate in front of goal – kicking 14 goals, seven behinds to defeat Hawthorn who kicked 11 goals 15 behinds, by 10 points. Franklin polled five votes in the Norm Smith Medal to finish equal third with Dan Hannebery, with Ryan O’Keefe winning the award with 12 votes and Brad Sewell finishing second with seven votes. There were varying opinions on Franklin’s game as whilst there were ample positives including 24 disposals – ranked second for Hawthorn, eight marks, six tackles, a game-high seven inside 50’s, 13 contested possessions, took four contested marks and kicked a game-high three goals, he had also been inaccurate in front of goal, also kicking four behinds. Whilst Franklin may have missed one or two goals that he should have kicked which led to some people downgrading his game, the other side of the equation also needs to be considered – he provided tremendous drive for Hawthorn with his hard running and he kicked a third quarter goal from 65 metres out on the left half-forward flank which only a handful of players in the competition would have kicked. 

In 2013 Hawthorn won their second minor premiership in a row, recording 19 wins and three losses to finish one win ahead of Geelong. Franklin was out of contract at the end of 2013 and there had been considerable speculation that he would change clubs at the end of season, possibly moving to the AFL’s newest club – the GWS Giants. Franklin spent less time inside forward 50 and more time up the ground during 2013, partly so that Hawthorn weren’t as predictable and partly to ready themselves in case he changed clubs, making the Hawks transition to life after Buddy easier. Hawthorn easily accounted for Sydney by 54 points in the qualifying final at the MCG and won their preliminary final against Geelong by just five points after having 32 scoring shots to 22. Hawthorn led Fremantle by 23 points at half-time in the Grand Final and withstood a Fremantle third quarter fight-back to win by 15 points. Spending considerable time playing up the ground Franklin had nine kicks, nine handballs, six marks, five inside 50’s and kicked a goal in the Grand Final victory.

In the 2013 free-agency period the Sydney Swans made restricted free-agent Franklin a nine-year, $10 million offer, the biggest deal in AFL history. The second Sydney club to join the AFL – the GWS Giants also made Franklin a long-term offer over six years which although a shorter term than the Swans was a slightly higher amount per year. During the 2013 season there had been considerable talk about Franklin possibly leaving Hawthorn to join GWS, however the vast majority of people were surprised when news broke about Sydney’s long-term offer to Franklin. As Buddy preferred the Sydney Swans offer the GWS Giants withdrew their offer. As a restricted free-agent Hawthorn had the option of matching the offer Sydney had given Franklin but as was expected decided not to. Franklin’s manager Liam Pickering had contacted the Sydney Swans shortly after Hawthorn’s 2012 Grand Final loss to the Swans and informed Sydney that Franklin would like to join their club for the 2014 season and beyond.  Sydney Swans chief executive Andrew Ireland commented on the deal “We got a general sense around the end of last season he would like to play for us. The difficulty was the Kurt Tippett thing was going through and we did that, and then nothing much happened. During the season Liam indicated he was still keen to play for us if that was achievable and I guess probably over the past six to eight weeks, we had more conversations about it. It’s not very often a player of his stature actually wants to approach you on the basis he wants to play for your club. Clearly, through the discussions along the way he loves the Hawthorn football club and the fishbowl of Melbourne has taken its toll, and he wanted to get out of that.’’7

To help with marketing and attracting crowds in a non-traditional football market the Sydney Swans like to have a high-profile full-forward in their side, Franklin became the fourth such player to play for the club since the 1980’s, following Warwick Capper who was renowned for his spectacular marking, and two intimidating highly skilled key forwards who went onto to lead Sydney’s goal kicking at least five times each after being recruited from the St Kilda Football Club – Tony ‘Plugger’ Lockett and Barry Hall. Lockett played 183 games with St Kilda, had won the Coleman Medal twice and had kicked 898 goals before joining Sydney at 28 years of age. At the time of changing clubs Franklin had also won two Coleman Medals playing for Hawthorn, had an almost identical games tally of 182 games and had kicked 580 goals when he joined Sydney at 26 years of age, meaning that he will be 35 years-old when his nine-year with Sydney concludes.

In Franklin’s first season at Sydney the Swans won the 2014 minor premiership with 17 wins to finish percentage ahead of Hawthorn and Geelong who finished second and third respectively. Sydney defeated Fremantle by 24 points in a qualifying final and then defeated North Melbourne by 61 points in a preliminary final with both finals being played at ANZ Stadium. In the Grand Final Sydney played against Franklin’s former team Hawthorn who outplayed the Swans to win by 63 points after leading by 42 points at half-time. Franklin was one of Sydney’s best players in the Grand Final, having 11 disposals, three handballs, five marks, nine contested possessions and kicked a team-high four goals.

Franklin kicked 67 goals during the 2014 home and away season to win the Coleman Medal, finishing five goals ahead of three players – Tom Hawkins, Jay Schulz and close mate and former team-mate Jarryd Roughead. Franklin kicked 12 goals in his three finals for Sydney to kick a total of 79 goals for the season – the third highest tally of his career – only surpassed by his previous Coleman Medal winning seasons 2008 and 2011.

During 2014 Franklin averaged 16.7 disposals and 3.6 goals per game. The profile for Buddy in AFL Prospectus 2015 said “Franklin averaged more Champion Data ranking points per game than any other key forward in the competition last season. He booted 25% of the Swans’ goals in the games he played – the highest percentage of any player – and averaged 9.1 scoreboard involvements per match – ranked No. 1 of all key forwards. Because his offensive game is so good, his defensive game too often gets overlooked. He rated elite for tackles per game and averaged the third-most pressure points of any key forward. He was the most used forward 50 target in the competition and was involved in the third-most one-on-one contests of any player, winning 37% of those – the fifth-highest percentage of the top 50 one-on-one players.”8

Franklin played 17 of Sydney’s 22 home and away games in 2015, averaging 14.7 disposals and 2.8 goals per game. Franklin missed Round 14 with suspension and four games with a back injury. Sydney finished fourth on the ladder, having 16 wins and six losses to finish one game behind minor premiers Fremantle, two premiership points behind second placed West Coast and percentage behind third placed Hawthorn. Franklin missed Sydney’s 2015 finals series to deal with an ongoing mental health issue. In an interview for Channel Seven’s Saturday Night Footy five days before Sydney’s opening game of the 2016 season Franklin commented about his mental health issue “It had been an issue for a little while with me, but I wasn’t able to talk about it and I was a little embarrassed about it. But for me, being able to speak to the football club, my partner and my family was the best decision I ever made.”

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After having a break from football for a couple of months before returning to the Sydney Swans for pre-season training Franklin felt refreshed and re-energised for the 2016 season. Sydney won the 2015 minor premiership with 17 games and five losses, to finish percentage ahead of Geelong and Hawthorn in second and third respectively, Franklin played all 22 games for Sydney during the home and away season. Although Sydney lost their qualifying final against the GWS Giants at the SCG by 36 points Sydney rebounded strongly to record comprehensive victories over Adelaide by 36 points in a semi final and Geelong by 37 points in a preliminary final to make the Grand Final. The Western Bulldogs After finishing the home and away season in seventh position the Western Bulldogs had three upset wins in a row to make the Grand Final. After leading by two points at half-time Sydney kicked three goals to the Western Bulldogs six in the second half and were defeated by 22 points. Franklin married model Jesinta Campbell in early November 2016 in the Blue Mountains.

During his 13 season AFL career Franklin has played 270 games comprised of 182 for Hawthorn and 88 for Sydney, he has averaged 10.9 kicks, 4.8 handballs, 5.5 marks, 3.2 inside 50’s per game, 0.5 Brownlow medal votes and 3.2 goals per game.

From 2007 onwards Franklin has finished in the top five of the Coleman Medal 10 times from 11 seasons with the exception being a ninth place finish in 2015. As well as winning four Coleman Medals he has also finished second once, third once, fourth three times and fifth once. Buddy has led his club’s goalkicking 10 times comprised of all four seasons at Sydney and six consecutive seasons for Hawthorn from 2007 to 2012. The only time since 2007 that Buddy hasn’t been his club’s leading goalkicker was in 2013 when he kicked 60 goals for Hawthorn to be ranked second  behind Jarryd Roughead who kicked 72 goals and won the Coleman Medal.

Including the 2017 elimination final victory against Essendon at the SCG Franklin has played 22 finals in his career comprised of 14 for Hawthorn and eight for Sydney. His club has made the AFL finals in 10 seasons of 13 seasons, the exceptions being with Hawthorn, in his first two seasons, 2005 and 2006 as well as 2009. Sydney have made the finals in all four seasons Franklin has played for the club however he didn’t play in the 2015 finals due to dealing with mental health problems.

Franklin has kicked 69 goals in finals during his career comprised of 46 for Hawthorn and 23 for Sydney. Buddy ranks fifth on the VFL/AFL all-time list goals behind Gordon Coventry (111 goals), Jason Dunstall (78), Jack Titus (74) and Leigh Matthews (72). Franklin is likely to move into second place on this list either later this finals series or in 2018 as he only requires another 10 goals to move into this position. Franklin is the only current player to have kicked seven or more goals in an AFL final, having achieved this feat twice when playing for Hawthorn with seven goals against Adelaide in the 2007 elimination final and eight goals against the Western Bulldogs in the 2008 qualifying final.

In the lead-up to his 250th AFL game in April 2017 Franklin was compared to several great forwards that Sydney head-coach John Longmire had played with or against being Wayne Carey, Jason Dunstall and Tony Lockett. In a press conference Longmire commented on the comparisons “His athleticism for his size is what makes him a really unique forward if you’re comparing eras. He gets up the ground and back and he’s so quick and such an amazing kick that he is quite unique, but he certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how his career pans out but to this point you’d certainly say he’s in that bracket.”

With five years still remaining on his contract with the Sydney Swans Franklin is already a certain inductee into the AFL Hall of Fame after he retires and with his fourth Coleman Medal in 2017 has already equalled the record for the most times a player has won this award during their career. Franklin’s strengths playing for Sydney throughout 2017 have been his athleticism, penetrating kicking, ability to kick miraculous goals, speed, strength and as well as being damaging at ground level, he has also improved his marking to take a career-high 6.7 marks per game.

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

1 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – The essential number cruncher for season 2017, 12th edition, page 336


3 AFL, AFL Record Season Guide 2005, Page 168

4 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – The essential number cruncher for season 2009, 4th edition, page 156

5 AFL, AFL Record Season Guide 2009, Page 21

6 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – The essential number cruncher for season 2012, 7th edition, page 190


8 Champion Data, AFL Prospectus – The essential number cruncher for season 2015, 10th edition, page 333

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