Swans coach John Longmire is hopeful of Lance Franklin facing the Gold Coast Suns in round one on Saturday night, but has played down expectations surrounding the superstar forward ahead of his final AFL season.
Franklin completed his nine-year, $10 million contract last year, but inked a fresh one-year deal in AFL grand final week.
The four-time Coleman Medallist wants to round out his legendary career with his first premiership in red and white.
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But doubts linger over how influential a role the 36-year-old can play in Sydney’s campaign due to his age and an injury-hampered summer.
“His ability on the ground to be able to contribute to the team is important,” Longmire said.
“But it’s not just going to be measured on goals alone. It never is; we’ve never done that. But particularly towards the absolute back end of his career; it’s what his match-ups might be able to allow others to do. All that will come into it. It’s guys like Logan (McDonald) who will feed off him and the experience that he’s got.
“It’s just good to have him available and running around this year. I’m sure there’s going to be different weeks when he won’t play. We’ll look at the six-day breaks, we’ll look at how he pulls up. It’s not just one thing that we’ll be looking at, it’s his full body, so that’ll depend from week to week how he is.”
Franklin’s body held up remarkably well over the last couple of seasons, with the eight-time All-Australian booting 51 goals from 18 games in 2021 and 52 majors from 23 appearances in 2022.
Soft-tissue injuries limited the Western Australian to only 10 games in 2019 and zero matches in 2020.
Franklin only went goalless in two games in 2022, but that happened to be in Sydney’s qualifying final win over Melbourne and the disastrous grand final defeat to Geelong.
“Most weeks he’ll have something going on (with his body) at 36 years of age. I’m sure that’s not too unexpected,” Longmire said.
“He’s all right, he’s good.
“It’s fantastic he saddles up for his 19th season of AFL football. It’s extraordinary, really, (at) 36 years of age.
“We’ve managed him over the off-season, he had a bit of a calf (issue) over Christmas, he’s been able to do a fair bit of training since then. He’s come back and played a half to three quarters of the (two) practice games and got in a little bit of touch. He was able to have a really good training session last week, last Thursday was a really solid hit-out for him.
“Hopefully he’s pulled up well, gets through this week and is available for this week.”
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