Buddy ‘excited’ for finals

Twelve months after stepping away from the game on the eve of the finals, Sydney Swans superstar Lance Franklin is happy, healthy, and excited to be back playing in September.

Franklin’s move to seek treatment for personal issues was courageous. The three-time Coleman medallist dispelled any doubts over his future when he returned to the club in December for pre-season training, and responded impressively to boot 74 goals without missing a game this year.

A relaxed Franklin said it’s nice to be happy and now he can’t wait to run out against Greater Western Sydney at a packed ANZ Stadium on September 10.

“That’s what we play football for,” he said on Monday.

“I missed last year’s finals but we get another go at it this year and I’m really excited by it.

“I think it’s just a matter of getting into finals and anything can happen, so we’ve given ourselves a double chance by finishing in the top four, which is a really good effort.”

Franklin struggled to get his body right in his first two seasons at the Swans, despite churning out some impressive figures.

But after hardly missing a session over summer, the 29-year-old said he’s never felt so good at this stage of a season.

“My first couple of years here I didn’t train much at all,” he said.

“Over the first couple of years I would play, but then I wouldn’t be able to train because I hadn’t done a pre-season, and it takes a little bit longer to recover.

“It’s not so much in games (that you notice it), it’s how you back it up on the Tuesday and Thursday sessions, that’s where I’ve felt it’s helped me with my form this year because I’ve been able to get out on the track.”

The Swans have been criticised for being too reliant on the two-time premiership Hawk, but with exciting youngsters Isaac Heeney and Tom Papley providing spark, speedster Gary Rohan in career-best touch, and lesser lights George Hewett and Xavier Richards chipping in with valuable contributions, Longmire’s forward set-up has taken great strides in the latter part of 2016.

The minor premiers kicked the second most goals in the League this year and averaged 100 points per game, and Franklin said he’s been inspired by his unofficial leadership role up forward.

“You’ve got some young guys that have only play 20 or 30 games, and the best part is they want to listen and they want to learn, and every game they’re growing,” he said.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing them have success on game day because they work really hard during the week, to get their game perfect for the weekend.

“When you’ve got kids in their first and second year that energy just comes out of them.

“It’s good to see how exciting it is on game day, especially if they kick a goal or put a tackle on; all the boys are really rapt that they can come in and play a role, and bring that excitement for us.”

Heeney has proved to be an ideal foil for Franklin inside 50 with 26 goals from his 20 games this season, and he received high praise from the man widely regarded as the best forward in the game.

“He’s a great young player, one of the best young players I’ve seen come through,” Franklin said.

“The way he launches at the ball for a guy who is 183cm is unbelievable.

“He’s got a great set of hands and he’s a kid that wants to learn, always wants to get better, and I love playing with him.”