Sydney Swans star Lance Franklin. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Sydney Swans star Lance Franklin. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Buddy magnificent: Franklin’s favourites

AN audience with Lance Franklin carries a significant sense of expectation.

When you are summoned to Sydney to talk shop with footy's most enigmatic figure, you need to get a headline out of him.

It's Journalism 101 - attack the controversial topics with a frenzy.

When will he retire? Is he worth the cash? Does he need a Sydney flag?

For so long 'Buddy' has been questioned about what he might not do.

He might not win the premiership many believe is the sole arbiter of his contract's success for Sydney.

He might not see out a contract that the Swans will have to pay every cent of for five more seasons.

Yet he is almost never asked about what he has done.

Which is compile one of the most brilliant, highlight-packed, durable, unforgettable careers this game has seen.

At some stage instead of death-riding his career with glee - "Imagine if they had to pay him as a retiree" - we should enjoy him while he's still playing.

Lance Franklin shines for the Swans. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Lance Franklin shines for the Swans. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Case in point: If you think Franklin has failed to deliver a flag, did you realise his four goals in the 2014 grand final are the most from a player in a losing side since 2002?

So as well as ask those headline-seeking questions, we traveled to Sydney to ask him about those moments of magic.

What are his favourite goals and what actually sustains him as a 31-year-old with miles on the clock but a dream to play until he is 35?

As it turns out, Franklin is distinctly uncomfortable talking about his own brilliance, even if he reluctantly details the favourite three goals of his audacious career when pushed.

More of that later.

But what quickly becomes apparent when you talk to Buddy is he doesn't sweat the small stuff and the bulldust.

The "fishbowl" lifestyle, the expectations, the injuries, the travel, the paparazzi sometimes trailing him and wife Jesinta.

All of it is worth it because of his deep and abiding love of the game.

Sydney knows it and so does Buddy - he might not have a flag up north but he couldn't be happier with his adopted home.

"It's been a great city to live in,'' he said. "The club has been really good to me and coming into my fifth season it has gone so fast.

"We haven't had the success we would have liked but the club is in a good position and if we work hard anything is possible this year."

Is he still in love with footy?

"Yeah. The best part of it is being able to get out on to the ground training, working on the stuff you need to be able to do on game day.

"And the biggest enjoyment I get out of football is actually training on (specific) stuff with the young guys or whoever you are playing with.

"And then to see it come off when you play a game, there is nothing better than teaching people and seeing them do it. I get a kick out of it."

Of Franklin's 860 goals at Hawthorn and Sydney, it is hard to think of two that are the same. Every moment of Franklin brilliance is unique.

Like Peter Daicos before him, a goal is a chance to dazzle as well as tick over his team's total.

Lance Franklin leapfrogs fallen players on the way to a monster goal against Collingwood in 2013.
Lance Franklin leapfrogs fallen players on the way to a monster goal against Collingwood in 2013.

Soaring like a gazelle over the pack of fallen Hawks and Magpies mid-MCG in an image frozen in time by Wayne Ludbey's perfect photo.

Hurtling along the MCG at warp speed - Chris Tarrant in chase - and summoning an audacious, dribbling checkside goal in a preliminary final against Collingwood in 2011.

Yet as a press-box witness to Franklin's first great goal - the last-gasp winner in the 2007 elimination final against Adelaide - it still seems hard to beat.

"I remember Rick Ladson got the ball and Crawf (Shane Crawford) had switched it to Laddo and he hit me up on the lead and I marked it 50 out," Franklin said of that indelible moment.

"I knew there wasn't long to go and I was able to kick the goal.

"I just remember being only a 20-year-old at that stage really early in my career. To kick that goal was pretty special for all Hawthorn supporters."

Yet for sheer unfolding beauty, his three-bounce surge down the wing as he ran Essendon's Cale Hooker into the ground in 2010 is just as eye-catching.

"It's one of my favourite goals,'' Franklin said.

"I got a little bit goalside on Cale and I was able to run in and kick that goal. It's a special goal I was pretty proud of.

"It was a seesawing contest (Franklin's goal levelled scores in the last term), and if you ask any guy that plays footy, it's something you don't realise when you are doing it. It just happens."

Perhaps the only replica is last year's stunner against Adelaide, this time outpacing a chasing Daniel Talia rather than Hooker.

"I probably ran a bit too far, it was good the umpire didn't call it, but I was able to put it through. I think my favourite goals are that, the Hooker one and the Adelaide final."

Lance Franklin lines up his matchwinner against Adelaide in the 2007 preliminary final.
Lance Franklin lines up his matchwinner against Adelaide in the 2007 preliminary final.

He has a breathtaking range - 70m bombs in grand finals, impossible snaps after dodging and weaving three opponents, as well as monumental feats in wet and dry.

That 2011 checkside against Collingwood came with Hawthorn two points down with 3min53sec on the clock in a preliminary final.

"I think I practise my checksides a bit more than others because I don't have a right foot," Franklin guffaws.

"I do remember that one. It was a good goal ... but I get a bit awkward talking about these, it doesn't sit comfortably with me talking about it. When I retire I will talk about them a bit better."

It is typical Franklin, the ultimate showman yet behind closed doors the ultimate team man.

Don't look now, but Franklin is closing in on 1000 career goals, capable of taking his 860 goals past seventh-placed Matthew Lloyd (926) this year.

He has done it with stunning durability.

Franklin's 271 games by 31 years of age have been beaten by only 20 players in history - Matthew Pavlich (279), Chris Grant and Bernie Quinlan (274) are the only pure key position players of that lot.

He has done it averaging 21 games a year, a strike rate that would put him in touch of 400 games if he played five more seasons.

Last off-season he needed three operations on his knees and yet he mostly suffers in silence despite often playing with pain.

"I put it down to the management of both football clubs,'' Franklin says.

"Hawthorn were really good at managing their players and getting me through the season and it's no different up here.

"It's something I am really proud of to be able to get to the amount of games I have got to in such a short period of time.

"I have got another five years to go, but if I can keep going the way I am I will be very proud."

Geelong champ Steve Johnson keeps a close eye on Lance Franklin at pre-season training.
Geelong champ Steve Johnson keeps a close eye on Lance Franklin at pre-season training.

There's no special diet or new-age treatment rather the age-old solution of easing the strain on his body.

"Nothing has changed, probably the management of my training. As an older guy I want to get out there and be training every session," he says.

"As I got older I realise I have to cut back my training to play on weekends and that has been frustrating to myself and a lot of older guys who play deep into their careers.

"But the most important thing for me is that I am playing on weekends and I am able to play consistent footy."

The prospect of playing at 35 doesn't intimidate him, Franklin happy to compartmentalise each season.

"I have pretty much set myself every year to get through that year and look no further than that," he says.

"I know if I look after my body and get the most out of myself I can see out the contract."

As his career has matured, Franklin has realised there is no time to waste.

Becoming the sixth man to kick 1000 goals would be a legacy moment.

"It would be nice to get to 1000 goals, wouldn't it. I will be trying my hardest, that's for sure," he says.

But more important is actually nailing the shots he takes, courtesy of a straighter run-up helped by former sharpshooter Nick Davis and goalkicking great Tony Lockett.

At Hawthorn club director Jason Dunstall famously attempted to streamline his routine by placing witches hats around his run-up to ensure he didn't veer hard left.

Dunstall, third on the AFL's goals tally with 1254 goals, said this week Franklin had simply stopped dead as those witches hats ominously approached.

Franklin adds: "That is true, he put two posts down and said run straight and kick the goal.

"I said, 'No mate, you are trying to make me not get the record'.

"With him and Tony Lockett I have been blessed with unbelievable goalkicking coaches. Obviously, I didn't listen to Bung (Dunstall).

"But as I have got older I have realised I do have a lot of shots at goal and I want to make every shot I have count.

"When you are a bit younger you just play and see what happens. In my first years I was just having shots and whatever happened, happened."

In his breakout 2008 season, Franklin took an astounding 201 shots at goal for 113.88, not counting shots that missed altogether.

"If you are having six or seven shots at goal you want to make every one count,'' says Franklin.

"But you have got to take your time and if you kick straight that wins you a game of footy."

Tony Lockett with Lance Franklin during Sydney Swans training. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Tony Lockett with Lance Franklin during Sydney Swans training. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Franklin and AFL goals record holder Lockett just clicked straight away.

"He's been amazing. What I have said to a lot of the younger guys is you don't realise how lucky you are when the greatest goalkicker of all time comes down casually and speaks to you one-on-one but also teach the boys their trade."

"Nick Davis has been great for me too, it's just kicking through the ball but also straightening up a bit.

"I got out (to the left) a bit to get that distance but running straight has helped, too."

The flag hasn't arrived yet, but Franklin's goal tallies are immense - 79, 81, 73 and 47 goals in 17 games in 2015 as his season was cut short by mental health issues.

At Sydney, their numbers are off the charts in part because of the Franklin effect - soaring corporate support, memberships, average home crowds and increased blockbuster games.

But one day Franklin will be gone and the hole left will be crater-sized.

So pull apart his motivations and demand that he delivers Sydney a premiership.

Or, better still, just be content that we are in the presence of greatness and be happy to be dragged along for the ride.

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