AFL superstar Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin is rounding up the final year of his monster deal with the Sydney Swans that was signed in 2013, and could potentially be heading to his third side in 2023.
A restricted free agent at the end of this season and with reports continuing to emerge of a possible move elsewhere. This has opened the door to many clubs who would be willing to take on the 35-year-old, as he has proven to still possess the talent that initially took him to the Harbour City.
The Inner Sanctum takes a look at every potential outcome for Buddy and how his suitors can fit in the 335-gamer.
The Crows have begun to make improvements after some horror years following their disappointing 2017 grand final performance, led by a vibrant attack.
Shown the way by the evergreen Taylor Walker, the Crows have a young and emerging forward line, with the likes of Josh Rachele, Riley Thilthorpe, and Darcy Fogarty showing signs of future greatness.
The addition of the veteran Franklin could aid Walker in the mentorship of this group and allow the young forwards to develop even further under the duo, as they study under a combined 1567 goals and 570 games.
The Lions have been a team on the verge of greatness for the last four years, with only a pesky record in finals denying them a chance at a fourth flag under the Brisbane Lions name.
While the Lions are unlikely to deal any genuine offers for Buddy’s services, there’s no doubt that a player with Franklin’s X-factor could be exactly what is required for the Lions to push themselves through the post-season and into a grand final.
Brisbane seems one of the least likely options for Franklin, with its current forward line currently averaging the most goals per game of any team and is unlikely to prefer him to its current lineup.
Carlton has proven many doubters wrong this season, with its 12-7 record complimented by a stellar offseason, in which it signed the likes of George Hewett and Adam Cerra.
These contracts, combined with the ones given to stars such as Patrick Cripps, Zac Williams, and Adam Saad, mean that the Blues are unlikely to have the resources available to pry Buddy to Lygon Street.
This is unlikely to be too saddening for Blues fans, who have enjoyed their two-pronged attack of Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay as their driving force up the ladder.
A surprise finals contender this season, the Magpies’ small forward fleet has impressed week in and week out.
Led by livewire Jack Ginnivan and veteran Jamie Elliott, the Magpies could only benefit from a player of Franklin’s calibre, with the Pies unable to truly lock down a key position forward.
Mason Cox and Darcy Cameron have both played significant minutes in the forward line but have been unable to consistently contribute to scoreboard pressure, while Brody Mihocek is slightly undersized for the key position role.
Franklin would be the perfect addition to the Pies structure and with their current form, it could be an enticing opportunity for Buddy to head back to Victoria and pull on the black and white stripes.
The Bombers have severely underperformed on their preseason hopes and linger towards the bottom of the ladder.
One of the few shining lights for the Bombers this season however has been the performance of Peter Wright, with the famously 203cm forward kicking 47 goals so far this season, a career-best.
While Wright has dominated, pairing him with a player such as Buddy will allow Wright to ease some of the goal-scoring load off himself and contribute more around the ground in the ruck.
While their season will leave much to be desired for Franklin, the Bombers’ storied history could certainly appeal to his star power and lead to him arriving at Tullamarine.
The Dockers have emerged as an early leading candidate for Franklin outside of Victoria, as they look to build on an already impressive list.
Fremantle has been excellent this season, sitting sixth on the ladder and have been boosted by fantastic returns from young star midfielder Andrew Brayshaw and ruckman Sean Darcy.
The current main target for the Dockers up forward, Rory Lobb, has been linked with several clubs in an apparent desire to head east, leaving a hole in the attack that could be filled by Buddy.
This scenario, combined with the fact that Buddy hails from Perth and has family there, it’s clear to see why the Dockers could be strong contenders to gain his services.
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Buddy in the blue and white hoops of Geelong would be a sight that would tear the hearts out of Hawthorn supporters around the country.
Fortunately for Hawks fans, it is extremely unlikely that Franklin would end up at the Cattery, as their key forward positions have been firmly held down by superstars Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron.
However, the Cats have never been afraid to bring ageing free agents into the fold, and an acquisition such as Buddy would have every opposing coach wondering how to match up on the three-headed dragon of Hawkins, Cameron, and Franklin.
The Suns have surprised many pundits this season as they still remain in the race for the top eight, despite many believing they would be towards the bottom of the ladder.
The Suns have done this with an extremely talented young list providing service to forwards Mabior Chol and Levi Casboult, as young gun Ben King rehabs from a torn ACL.
With Casboult in the late stages of his career and King likely to return next season, the prospect of pairing King with Franklin would be an enticing one for the Suns’ board, with either player capable of producing stunning performances.
Since Gary Ablett Jr played on the Gold Coast, they have been unable to entice any serious free agents, which could all change with the acquisition of Buddy.
The Giants have been dealt their own fair share of star departures in recent years, with the likes of Jeremy Cameron, Dylan Shiel, and Adam Treloar all finding new homes through free agency or trade period after starting their career as a Giant.
The possibility of inflicting a similar fate to their cross-town rivals could beckon through Franklin, a player of which they were so close to signing in 2013 before a last-second switch to the red and white.
The Giants have never completely filled the hole left by Jeremy Cameron when he departed for the Cats in 2020 and a signing like Buddy could see him partner with Jesse Hogan as a dual threat in the forward half.
With the significant ability to draw a crowd that Franklin has, the Giants will be eager to approach and successfully draw him to Western Sydney and send attendance through the roof.
Dare to dream.
A miraculous reconciliation could be on the cards for the Hawks and Buddy, who is still adored by Hawks fans after his departure in 2013.
The Hawks look to be a team now on the rise, with some impressive performances this season headed by their new coach and Franklin’s ex-teammate, Sam Mitchell.
The thought of working under his old captain could be an exciting one for Franklin, who has lost no love for his former side over the years.
With a rumour that Buddy would prefer to move to a Victorian side, a fairytale return to the brown and gold could be on the cards to finish his career where it all began.
The reigning premiers have stumbled in recent weeks, with their stranglehold of the top of the ladder now gone following recent their recent defeats.
The Demons’ forward stocks have been the subject of much deliberation, with Ben Brown playing the majority of the games as the side’s key forward, partnering with Luke Jackson or Max Gawn as they rotate between the forward line and the ruck, leaving Sam Weideman to play in the VFL for Casey on most occasions.
If Weideman was to depart the Demons next season as has been speculated, it could create an even tougher battle for Brown if they were to bring in Franklin as their second significant tall or even to partner with Brown and allow the Demons to play Gawn behind the ball where he has shown to be effective.
If the Demons are able to retain the premiership, the lure of another successful side could well influence Buddy into a move to chase another flag before he retires.
One of the more unlikely teams on the list, North Melbourne has had a history of going for the biggest name free agent in a given year.
While they haven’t been successful, the Roos would be able to afford what Buddy is asking and then some, providing an attractive deal for Franklin that also allows him to return to Victoria.
The Roos will be eager to get a big name to Arden Street to help quell talks of a move to Tasmania, with Franklin being exactly the name that would bring in the crowd and the money, that will keep them in Victoria.
While unlikely, the Kangaroos will almost certainly be able to afford Franklin and entice him with a lucrative deal above his asking price.
The Power has been a team so close to greatness for the last few years, with Hinkley’s list never quite being perfected year on year.
Their key forward stocks continue to look promising with the likes of Todd Marshall, who continues to show significant development in the Power forward line.
While they continue to develop, however, it could be wise of the Power to bring aboard Franklin to partner with Charlie Dixon as a deadly duo in the forward half.
As Franklin likely won’t have many years remaining at near full flight, bringing him to Alberton Oval could certainly reap short-term benefits while their list is capable, with their ageing stars such as Travis Boak and Robbie Gray reaching the twilight of their careers.
The Tigers’ long run of success seems to be coming to an end, with the side a good chance to miss finals for the second year running after their successes in 2017, 2019, and 2020.
With speculation about the future of superstar Dustin Martin at the club, the Tigers may look to Franklin as another X-factor talent that could be brought in to keep them competitive in the short term.
With forward Jack Riewoldt nearing the end of his storied career, it could be Buddy that comes in for his last few seasons to partner with Tom Lynch and give the Tigers one last shot at glory.
The back half of the Saints’ season has left much to be desired for their fans, as they attempt to return to the finals after falling short last year.
A major problem that has plagued the Saints late in the year has been their noticeable absence of targets up forward, with Max King being targeted at almost every opportunity even while he is defended closely.
The Saints should be looking into bringing Franklin to Moorabbin to create another genuine forward target and allow King to develop without the pressure of being the number one option.
It could only benefit the Saints, who seem to lack the X-factor talent that is required to push deep into finals and make a meaningful run towards their second-ever flag.
Of course, the Swans will be the most eager to keep Franklin, who has been an outstanding player for them for the past nine seasons.
While their current offer to Franklin was below his expectations, the Swans will more than likely increase their offer to match his desires, keeping him a Swan for the rest of his career.
The young Swans’ key forwards such as Logan McDonald can continue to benefit from having Buddy in the squad and learn under him, demonstrating he is worth much more to the Swans than just his on-field output.
The Eagles have had a difficult season, with injuries and health and safety protocols decimating their side for much of the early parts of this year.
With an ageing list, it seems the Eagles may be a fair way off challenging once again, as they aim to rebuild their list with youth.
For the Eagles to pursue Franklin, it would surely be a development role and help to build up their forward stocks after the recent retirement of superstar Josh Kennedy.
While it is unlikely for Franklin to don the blue and gold, Perth being his hometown will do the Eagles no harm if they were to try to lure him into a mentorship role.
The Bulldogs’ list on paper is one that should be challenging for the premiership once again, but stumbles throughout the year have seen them in a race to finish in the top eight.
One area of their list that comes under scrutiny is their forward line, with Aaron Naughton taking on the key position duties and a lack of significant talent surrounding him in a purely forward role.
While the Dogs have been linked to the likes of Rory Lobb, Buddy could be the perfect addition for their forward line to create a target higher up the ground, allowing Marcus Bontempelli to potentially rest behind the ball instead, shoring up their defence.
Partnering Naughton with Franklin could see fascinating results and create a potent forward line that allows Naughton clear air to develop and blossom even further, or even partnering Franklin with up-and-coming Jamarra Ugle-Hagan to assist in nurturing his young career.
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