Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin outstanding in Sydney Swans intra-club match
Lance Franklin announced his return to football with a performance that explains why the superstar Swan is rated among the best players in the competition.
A fit and lean Franklin made his presence felt right from the start in the Swans’ crash and bash intra-club hit-out at a sun-drenched Henson Park in Sydney’s inner-west, looking keen and engaged and displaying his full repertoire of skills.
The 29-year-old became unavailable due to mental illness with his side on the cusp of the finals, but looks to be primed for a new season. He ran hard, provided efficient disposal and delivered plenty of defensive pressure.
Welcomed return: Lance Franklin was back in action in a Swans’ intra-club trial. Photo: Getty Images
To top it off, the roving centre-half-forward took a strong intercept mark and kicked a goal from 40 metres to finish a comprehensive first term that blew out the cobwebs.
“He was running really well right through the midfield area. He had plenty of the footy in that first probably two and a half quarters,” coach John Longmire said.
“He looked sharp, got across the ground really well and got plenty of the footy.”
Longmire said Franklin had been “enjoying his training, enjoying his footy” throughout the pre-season.
“He’s done an enormous amount of training and you could see it come out in his ability to run and get across the ground. Certainly tonight he looked really fit, ran really hard and I’m sure feels good about doing that,” he said.
The only moment of concern came in the third term when Franklin and Kurt Tippett, who were playing on the same side, collided while going for a mark. Tippett held the grab as Franklin slowly got up and continued on.
Franklin was by no means the only player to catch the eye.
Among a willing group, Kieren Jack looked particularly hungry after missing last year’s finals with a knee ligament tear, while youngsters Isaac Heeney and No.3 draft pick Callum Mills suggested the club’s succession line is well mapped out after losing the likes of Adam Goodes and Rhyce Shaw from last season.
But most of the thousand-odd people at the home of the famous Newtown Jets rugby league club were keen to see how Franklin would perform.
After 182 games for Hawthorn, the dual premiership player joined the Swans in late 2013 on a nine-year $10 million contract.
He played 22 games in his first season in Sydney and kicked 79 goals. However, in 2015, after 17 rounds and 47 goals, the club announced Franklin was suffering from an undisclosed mental illness.
In late 2015, Franklin’s partner, Jesinta Campbell, told Fairfax Media: “We just take each day as it comes. It has been really difficult. I’ve continued working throughout the entire process, which has taken its toll on me. I’m quite exhausted from it all.”
A fortnight ago, Campbell told the Today show “I don’t think you ever truly recover from a mental health issue.
“It is really something that you battle with and challenge with every day. I think with anyone who struggles with mental health, it’s a day-by-day thing; you just have to tackle the day and do the best that you can. It’s hard and just because he is a sports star doesn’t mean that he’s bulletproof.”
After making his return to training in December, Franklin said: “It was a tough time for myself, leading into the finals. I was really struggling and I put my hand up and said I needed help. I’m so glad I did it. I took some time away and it was the best decision I’ve made.”
The Swans play the first of their pre-season challenge matches against Port Adelaide on February 20 at Blacktown International Sportspark. They play the GWS Giants on March 4 and Carlton in Melbourne on March 11.
Their premiership campaign begins when they host Collingwood at ANZ Stadium on March 26.