In amongst all the young talent on display at the SCG on Saturday, the return of Lance Franklin was the major story.
The Sydney Swans ran out 33-point winners against the Adelaide Crows, in their first home game in front of a crowd since round 23, 2019.
Fittingly, that game was also the last time Franklin ran out for the Swans before his return on Saturday afternoon, where he marked the occasion with three goals.
Swans coach John Longmire said that despite the significance of Franklin’s return, there wasn’t any pressure on the star forward to perform.
“Our expectations today were very low,” Longmire said post-match.
“He feels good now, so [we’ll] see how he pulls up this week.
For the second consecutive week, the Swans registered a score in excess of 120, with Franklin’s three goals accompanied by three from Isaac Heeney and two majors from Tom Hickey, Chad Warner and second-gamer Logan McDonald.
The energetic, almost 24,000-strong crowd roared whenever Franklin was near the ball, with rapturous cheers for his return mark and goal.
Also noticeable was the Swans fans’ affinity for McDonald, the young key forward drawing similarly noisy cheers for his two goals.
McDonald looks set to benefit immensely from the influence of his fellow West-Australian, but Longmire suggests that the 18-year-old has plenty more experience around him as well.
“The big fella [Franklin] comes out and he stretches his arms out, and if you’re a young bloke looking there, he draws your attention,” he said.
“He helps them, no doubt, but so does Isaac Heeney and Tom Papley.”
A week after receiving the round one Rising Star nomination, second-gamer Errol Gulden was again impressive with 22 disposals, 11 score involvements and a goal, but it was his Swans Academy Teammate who could be a chance to receive the gong this week.
Braeden Campbell was outstanding with 25 disposals at 80% efficiency and a match-high 708 metres gained, and drew high praise from Longmire after the match.
“Braeden’s been good, he hasn’t played a heap of footy down back but it’s a wonderful way to learn,” Longmire said.
“We feel he’s got the skills, he competes hard, he’s quick, he’s a competitor.”
With another impressive showing from the Swans’ prized draftees in McDonald, Gulden and Campbell, Longmire lauded their immediate impact on the training track.
“All three of them came in and trained hard from the start,” he said.
“Sometimes it takes a bit of time to flick that mental switch in a training sense… but they’ve come in from day one and trained hard.
“Now the challenge is… to keep going.”