GETTY IMAGES | Daniel Carson

ALWAYS ONE to march to the beat of his own drum, Lance (Buddy) Franklin has shocked the AFL world by suddenly calling time on his storied career, mid-way through the 2023 season. A calf injury sustained in the Sydney Swans clash with Essendon over the weekend is forcing the superstar forward into retirement. While Franklin has called it quits mid-season, after nearly two decades at the apex of his sport, we could hardly call his retirement an early one.

It should come as no shock that Franklin is finally hanging up his boots. The 36-year-old has been battling through injury issues for years and eventually Father Time catches up to everyone. Nevertheless, Buddy’s decision to forgo the rest of the 2023 season has left the AFL world reeling. With the Swans in a tight late-season race to crack the top eight and qualify for finals footy, Franklin’s retirement is a massive blow, and one that could derail the team’s season.

Why is Buddy Franklin retiring?

Lance Franklin played his last of 354 AFL games on Saturday at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium. The 36-year-old goal kicking maestro limped off the field in the second quarter of the Swan’s victory over Essendon after injuring his calf. The severity of the injury was not initially known, but Franklin’s sudden retirement suggests that the knock is enough to keep him out of action for an extended period, ending his season and ultimately, his career.

Franklin broke the news to his Swans teammates this morning, before revealing on Instagram that he had played his final game. “What a journey. Thanks to everyone who has been on this crazy ride with me,” Franklin shared in a caption.

Franklin has essentially been kept in bubble wrap this season, only appearing in 13 of the Swans 19 games. Nevertheless, the 36-year-old has been as effective as ever, kicking 19 goals leading the Swans by example. In the end, the enhanced injury management wasn’t enough to get Franklin’s body over the line for the rest of the season.

What have the Sydney Swans said about Franklin’s retirement?

With the Swans suddenly embroiled in a desperate finals push after a year of disappointing results, the news of Franklins retirement is a crushing blow. While the loss doesn’t outright eliminate the Swans from premiership flag contention, it’s difficult to see the team affectionately known as the ‘Bloods’ making a deep run without their superstar forward.

Swans staff have expressed their gratitude for Franklin’s services over the years, with CEO Tom Harley calling Franklin “an icon of the AFL who will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play this game”. Harley also described the extent of Franklin’s impact on the sport. “He is a champion and will leave a lasting legacy, not only at the Sydney Swans, but within the AFL and broader community.”

Swans head coach John Longmire has also chimed in with his own words of admiration, calling Franklin the “greatest forward of his generation… 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.” That’s the kind of praise that scoring 486 goals for your club will get you.

Is there any chance of Buddy Franklin returning?

While Franklin has been on the brink of retirement for years and has openly considered calling time in the past, we have to assume that if there was any chance the 36-year-old could return this season, he’d take it. Franklin’s injury must be fairly serious to taper the stars competitive spirit, so don’t expect any announcements of a backflip on retirement and sudden return.

Will Buddy Franklin go down as the greatest player of all time?

Perhaps it’s too soon to ponder, but there comes a time at the end of every athlete’s career where the question as to where they sit in the GOAT debate must be asked — and what better time than now.

Reading through Franklin’s accolades is like receiving a lesson in greatness. Even the most ardent of Franklin’s critics will admit the 36-year-old has racked up some impressive accomplishments over his legendary career. Franklin made the All-Australian team eight times, won four Coleman Medals, had two premiership triumphs, and sits fourth on the AFL’s all-time goal-scoring leaderboard.

It’s not only the stats and accolades that give Franklin his legendary status. The superstar has been the focal point of a handful of moments that will go down as some of the most memorable in the history of Australian Rules Football. Last year, Franklin became just the sixth player in the history of the game to kick 1000 goals — and the first since 1996. The ensuing scenes, where thousands of fans stormed the field at the Sydney cricket Ground, will live long in the memories of anyone lucky enough to witness the momentous occasion, with stories passed down for generations to come.

It may be too early to call Franklin the greatest to ever do it before the dust has even settled on his retirement, but he has undoubtedly staked his place in the history books.


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