Lance Franklin, one of the AFL’s greatest players, has terrorised his last opposition backline.
The legendary Sydney and Hawthorn key forward has retired after injuring his calf in Saturday night’s win over Essendon.
The 36-year-old told teammates his career is now over, with the Swans calling a media conference for Monday afternoon to make it official.
Franklin, who won two premierships with the Hawks in 2008 and ’13, belongs in the conversation with Graham “Polly” Farmer as the game’s greatest Indigenous player.
He is fourth on the all-time leading goal kickers list with 1066 goals from his 354 games.
“What a journey. Thanks to everyone who has been on this crazy ride with me,” said Franklin in an Instagram post complete with a photo of him alongside his only two senior coaches, Alastair Clarkson and John Longmire.
Franklin stunned the sport at the end of the 2013 season by signing a massive nine-year deal with the Swans.
He extended that deal by a year in grand final week last season, a few days before Geelong belted them at the MCG.
The Swans managed him through this season as he played 13 games, including the last four in a row, prompting some speculation about whether he might try to keep playing next year.
But after nursing a knee injury through this season, Saturday night’s setback proved the last straw.
“Lance Franklin has been a wonderful player with this football club and in my opinion is the greatest forward of his generation.,” said Longmire.
“He is an absolute freak of nature and we have been lucky enough to have front row seats to one of the best ever to play.
“He is a massive competitor and a wonderful teammate.
“Lance is also an extremely private and humble champion, which makes him even more endearing to those who know him.”
While the Swans never won a flag with Franklin, “Buddy” was their main forward for three grand finals and his star quality gave them a significant boost in the tough Sydney market.
He was an eight-time All Australian, most recently in 2018, when Franklin was given the extra honour of captaincy.
Asked on stage at the All-Australian function what the skipper would tell his honorary team if they played, Franklin grinned and said, “kick it to me”.
It was classic Franklin – a freakishly talented key forward who lit up the game with his on-field exploits.
At his peak, Franklin was unstoppable and his highlights feature some of the best goals in AFL history.
Franklin’s playing honours are elite, and he will surely join Farmer as a legend in the Australian Football Hall Of Fame.
Along with the two flags and eight All-Australian selections, Franklin finished equal runner-up in the 2014 Brownlow Medal.
He won Hawthorn’s best and fairest in the 2008 premiership season and was a four-time Coleman Medallist as the AFL’s leading goalkicker.
In his 18 seasons from 2005 Franklin was the club leading goal kicker 13 times – six at Hawthorn and seven at Sydney.
He is the most recent player to kick 100 games in a season, with 113 in 2008.