It was the curveball statement that has cast further doubt over Lance Franklin’s footy future.
But it’s the timing of the superstar’s declaration that he’s delayed contract talks until season’s end that pricked the ears of several AFL commentators – and not in a good way.
Franklin, a premiership Hawk, four-time Coleman Medalist, eight-time All Australian and one of just six players in AFL/VFL history to kick 1000 goals, remains one of the biggest names in the AFL world, both on and off the field .
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His management on Saturday morning released a statement, confirming the superstar’s contract talks with the Swans had officially been “paused” so he can “put all my focus on playing footy”.
“I am still undecided and need time after the season to make a family decision about whether I continue to play next year,” said Franklin, who’s coming to the end of a nine-year, $10 million deal and, therefore, a restricted free agent.
In the days prior, Franklin had been strongly linked to Brisbane, while there were also suggestions he was more likely to remain with Sydney after the club had made financial ground in negotiations.
The statement, which was described as “provocative” by veteran AFL journalist Damian Barrett on The Sunday Footy Showwas released just over 24 hours before the Swans, who are now right in the 2022 premiership mix, were to face North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium.
Swans coach John Longmire said on Saturday the club supported Franklin’s decision, labeling it a “really sensitive” move considering his stage of his footy career. Swans chairman Andrew Pridham told 7NewsMelbourne the Swans were “very supportive” of Franklin’s approach, adding: “I see no need to rush an outcome.”
But speaking on Channel 9’s The Sunday Footy Showfour-time Power best and fairest winner Kane Cornes suggested the timing of Franklin’s statement was selfish and “really strange”.
“It was a very ‘me, me, me’ thing to do, I thought, from Buddy Franklin when the Sydney Swans are flying,” Cornes said on Sunday morning.
“They’ve paid him $10 million over nine years … I understand that (he’s delivered on his contract), but I’m not sure you need to release a statement prior to the game. What was the point of Buddy doing that?
“It didn’t alleviate any of the talk… It made the talk fester more.”
It all comes after it was reported last month Franklin could leave the Swans – or even call time on his career – with the key forward left frustrated by a low-ball contract offer.
Reports have indicated that he wants between $700,000 and $800,000 next season, but the Swans, who want Franklin to play on, initially offered him a deal between $500,000 and $600,000. Herald Sun reporter Jon Ralph suggested if Franklin was paid close to the $800,000 mark, it “makes it hard to keep that (Sydney) list together.”
Asked if it was selfish for Franklin to ask for as much as $800,000 next year, triple premiership Lion Jonathan Brown told Fox Footy: “It’s hard to say ‘selfish’ because he’s brought a lot of value to that football club. However you need to have an expectation late in your career that your salary is going to come down.
“You’d probably look at the Tom Brady comparison. Tom Brady always played well below market value provided he had weapons and tools around him – and he’s gone on to win seven Super Bowls.
“You feel like the legacy for Buddy to win another premiership and end his career is more important than an extra $100,000 to $200,000.”
St Kilda champion Nick Riewoldt said it was a “mature” decision by Franklin considering the premiership opportunity the Swans have this year, but said it was now doubtful the left-footer would be wearing red and white in 2023.
“I don’t think it necessarily augurs that well for him being at Sydney next year,” Riewoldt told Fox Footy’s Best On Ground.
“Whether that’s at another club or retirement, it puts that little seed of doubt in. But they’re not going to talk about it now.”
Seven-time All-Australian Nathan Buckley added: “He’s had success at both clubs, he’s been an established player over a long period of time, he’s contributed heavily to both of his organisations.
“If for family reasons or personal reasons he wants to go and play somewhere else or not play at all – which he might be considering – he’s entitled to it.”