How Buddy fared in first half of AFL deal

By AAP Newswire

Lance Franklin is threatening to march Sydney deep into September yet again, with the superstar showing no signs of slowing down at the halfway point of his nine-year deal.

The Swans' top-two showdown with Richmond at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night will be Franklin's 100th game with his second club.

Franklin played 182 matches for Hawthorn then shocked the AFL community after winning the 2013 premiership, overlooking Greater Western Sydney's overtures to sign a nine-year contract worth approximately $10 million.

Andrew Demetriou, AFL chief executive at the time, dubbed it "risky". Others called it preposterous. The league rubber stamped the deal as Sydney's rivals raged behind closed doors.

The burning question then was whether Franklin will see out his contract. It remains unanswered and a topic of great intrigue, but the 31-year-old and his club are both upbeat.

Brisbane great Alastair Lynch, who penned a 10-year contract with the Lions at age 25, notes there is no evidence to suggest they shouldn't be.

"Similar to me, he had some health concerns early in his contract but he looks really fit now. As fit and healthy as he's ever been," Lynch told AAP.

"Just chatting to him, he seems as happy as he could be. Everything's pointing in the right direction that he'll at least get very close to the term.

"With age and that sort of stuff, things can change really quickly

"But things are looking very positive."

Lynch is uniquely well placed to comment. The power forward incredibly agreed to a one-year extension after 10 seasons, retiring in 2004 with three premiership at the age of 36.

Franklin will be 35 when his current commitment expires at the end of the 2022 season.

The game has obviously changed since Lynch bossed the goal square but Swans football manager Tom Harley, who will become the club's chief executive later this year, has previously said it's conceivable that Franklin could sign a contract extension.

Aside from durability, assessing Franklin's life-changing venture is tricky and subjective.

The Indigenous icon is regarded as the best player of the modern era by many good judges. There is a consistency to his class and competitive streak.

Franklin's numbers are incredible. The four-time Coleman medallist has earned All-Australian selection on seven occasions, booting 891 goals to sit ninth on the list of VFL/AFL goal-kickers.

Childhood hero Tony Lockett's all-time record of 1360 career goals will take same beating, but Franklin is on track to overtake Matthew Lloyd (926 goals) and Leigh Matthews (915) later this year.

Luke Hodge suggested earlier this week that Franklin, the most recent player to kick 100 goals in a season, could achieve another century in 2019 if proposed rule change go ahead.

The cost of keeping such an asset on your books is a salary-cap squeeze. Hawthorn ball magnet Tom Mitchell is the most obvious example of a gun now dominating at another club after being developed by the Swans.

Team success is another area to judge the success of Franklin's stint in Sydney.

Some pundits believe Franklin, who has played in two losing grand finals as a Swan - including one against his former club, must deliver a premiership to the SCG for his contract to be a true success.

Lynch disagrees, noting Franklin has Sydney on track for a ninth straight finals campaign.

"They're continually knocking on the door. You want to be able to convert a few of those opportunities," Lynch said.

"But they'd be the envy of a lot of clubs, because they've put themselves in a position where they're a chance to win it again.

"Buddy's played his role in that.

"They couldn't ask too much more."

Franklin's true worth is hard to quantify as it extends to his capacity to bring people through the gate.

The Swans have more than 60,000 members this year, a club record. They regularly attract good crowds in a fickle market, notably outdrawing NRL glamour club Sydney Roosters when both sides were in action at Moore Park a fortnight ago.

Franklin isn't directly responsible for those numbers but his larger than life, Lockett-like presence has helped the Swans' marketing department immensely.

The final piece of the marking criteria in 2022 will be how well Franklin has set the club up for future success.

Youngsters Isaac Heeney, Tom Papley, Will Hayward, Ben Ronke and Tom McCartin all speak glowingly of the impact Franklin has already had on their respective careers.

Part of it is walking taller when Franklin puffs out his chest or kicks an incredible goal, but there is also plenty of nuanced advice that has many at the club believing the excitement machine could easily transition into coaching if he desired.

"You don't really get to appreciate him until you work with him close up," Swans coach John Longmire said this week.

"You understand how much of a competitor he is. How much he understands football and how much he contributes.

"His role mentoring the younger players can't be underestimated.

"He's been a fantastic asset ... his impact on the club has been significant on and off the field."