Sydney superstar Lance Franklin has rejected plans for a big celebration around his 350th game and looming exit from the AFL, as the Swans prepare for life without him up forward.
That could see them launch a major trade move for Western Bulldogs gun Aaron Naughton, with the Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph reporting the Swans are one of “at least eight clubs” who’ve made contact about landing the West Aussie’s services.
Franklin will play his latest and likely final milestone match against St Kilda on Thursday night at the SCG. He needs just one more goal to sit outright fourth in the all-time VFL-AFL goalkicking list, moving out of his current tie with Doug Wade, and is unlikely to reach Jason Dunstall who is almost 200 goals ahead in third.
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The future Hall of Famer’s lack of form and age – he is the oldest player in the AFL – have most expecting him to retire at the end of the 2023 season.
But it has become clear Franklin wants to make as little fuss as possible, as shown by his reaction to plans for media appearances for his 350th game, instead speaking with club staffers for a video which will be shared with media outlets.
“He’s not on board with the celebration tour. And so Sydney was keen for him to do a press conference, potentially do some one-on-ones, not interested at all,” Jon Ralph said on Fox Footy’s On the Couch.
“So what they’ve allowed – and what he’s allowed – is to do a 13-minute interview which they’ll distribute to TV, print and online people. No talk of a decision on retirement, no real questions on that.
“The feeling is he’ll try to minimise the talk of retirement … right until the end of the year, and then he might just disappear. Assume he will eventually announce his retirement there.”
The Swans have several young forwards in their ranks, including Joel Amartey, Logan McDonald and Hayden McLean, but Franklin has brought more than just on-field talent during his time in the Harbour City.
The club has always relied on a marquee name – Franklin, or Tony Lockett, or even back to Greg Williams and Gerard Healy – to help draw attention away from rugby league and other sports, and many inside the AFL industry believe the Swans could launch a big move once Franklin is off their books.
Naughton, while not at that level, is an emerging superstar who at just 23 years old could anchor the Swans’ forward line for a decade if he were to move.
As Ralph put it: “The Swans though are preparing for life without Buddy.
“They’re one of at least eight clubs who’ve made contact with Aaron Naughton’s camp to assess his interest. Naughton is contracted through to 2024, so could he be the next Buddy Franklin?
“It certainly hasn’t progressed any further than just a discussion on that. They’ve got the cap space, they’ve certainly got the inclination.
“Naughton’s happy at the Dogs, in the leadership group, I think at the end of the year he’ll sign a contract extension but Sydney’s getting busy and we know what happened last time – they got Buddy Franklin when everyone thought he was going to GWS.”