Why Lance Franklin’s Legacy Will Live On Regardless Of The AFL’s Big Finish

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<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Legacies are often complex. Even Mother Teresa was labeled a “bigot, fundamentalist and a fraud” by the late Christopher Hitchens. And while talk of Buddy Franklin’s legacy has cooled somewhat since he announced his intention to play “one more,” it’s easier to assess regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s grand final.

Franklin’s stats alone ensure his reputation as one of the game’s undeniable greats. He has played for 18 seasons, nine each with Hawthorn and Sydney, for a combined total of 340 games. He is an eight-time All Australian and a four-time Coleman medalist. He is the fifth best kicker in the history of the game. And he is just great to watch. So much so that in a city where rugby league dominates the media, Franklin’s profile has helped put the Swans on the back page.

Related: Lance Franklin considered retiring from AFL before re-signing with Swans

It also continues the club’s wonderful legacy of indigenous leadership. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph on the eve of his 300th game in 2019, Franklin said spending time with Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin when he first moved to town strengthened his passion and helped him understand the opportunity he had. to be a paper. model.

“It is a true privilege to be able to play the game that I love and I want to inspire other indigenous children to give their best; the opportunity is definitely there for them if they are prepared to work hard and put in the effort.”

Sadly, it seems that many of them have yet to be prepared for some appalling treatment down the road.

This year’s grand final is being played out under the shadow of disturbing allegations about the treatment of young First Nations players at Hawthorn. Writing an article simply about the football cheer Franklin brings to this year’s decider is like asking Randy Newman to bookmark Taxi Driver.

But on Saturday, Franklin will probably remind us again of the enormous contribution First Nations players have made to the game. Even at 35, he has the unearthly ability to turn a game around with a moment of brilliance.

Franklin’s ability to be a damaging wing hardly needs a reminder, nor does his exquisite downfield kicking when he pushes further up the field. But just as important on Saturday is his ability to compete again and again and use his physical presence when things don’t go his way.

That ability was on full display in this year’s qualifying final against Melbourne, when Franklin had a torrid time against Steven May, but still sparked a decisive change of momentum by forcing back-to-back 50m penalties from the All-Australian defender. in the second room.

The leadership that Franklin will establish for Sydney’s young strikers in his first major final, such as Will Hayward and Errol Gulden, is as important as his own role.

With close to 350 games in experience, Franklin is well aware that while you can’t always play the game on your own terms, and Geelong’s stingy defense will ensure that Franklin’s afternoon is a tough one, you can own the moment.

He is not a one-dimensional footballer. He is not someone whose attributes can be reduced to possessions or meters gained. His is a game impossible to imitate, much less replicate. It cannot be replaced like for like.

Franklin is one of those rare players whose impact goes beyond the physical. He has presence, a presence that teammates feed off of and that can fill opposition defenders and supporters with a sense of awe.

If it’s a close contest in the shadows of the fourth quarter on Saturday, it’s Franklin who most eyes will turn to, even more so than Jeremy Cameron, whose season has been better than Franklin’s based on stats alone.

But grand finals will at some point deviate from logic and ask someone to do the unlikely. Think of Tom Boyd spinning on his right foot from 60m in 2016. Think of Dom Sheed’s nerves of steel, deep in the front pocket, in 2018.

It’s hard to imagine that Franklin will fail to live up to the potential of the moment, because the rejection of the “big time” seems fundamentally hostile to the reputation he has built over 18 years.

He is a man made for the moment. And in a week in which we have been reminded of how much more work we need to do to ensure it is a week of inclusion and opportunity for all Indigenous soccer players, it also feels like a built moment for Franklin.

We are privileged to see Franklin again on the game’s biggest stage, 17 years after his debut. Since her last appearance in a grand final in 2016, her standing in the game has only improved. The reaction to his 1,000th career goal in March, when Sydney last faced Geelong, all but confirmed his status as an enduring legend of the sport.

Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, Franklin’s place in the game, his legacy, is assured.

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