Lance Franklin will not be taking part in the large AFL retirees motorcade on the final day to say goodbye to fans.
Outgoing AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan had made a public request for the Hall of Fame legend to travel to Melbourne from his Gold Coast home, where he and his family retired, to give fans one last chance to say goodbye to one of the biggest names in the history of the game.
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But Franklin, as is typical of him – he didn’t even attend his own retirement press conference – declined the offer to take the victory lap.
His close friend and Hawthorn premiership teammate Jordan Lewis confirmed Franklin would not be at the MCG on Saturday.
“I spoke to him on Tuesday and he didn’t make the cut – that’s fine,” Lewis said on AFL 360.
Franklin also steered clear of Hawthorn’s 2013 inaugural meeting celebrations later in the week, opting not to attend the official club event or the subsequent private gathering of players and coaches.
Franklin quietly retired in July, just days after being substituted in his 354th and ultimately final game with another calf injury.
The goalkeeping legend returned to the SCG last month for an “overwhelming” lap of honor in the Swans’ Round 24 home game against Melbourne.
Franklin wasn’t at the Brownlow Medal this week, but he was a keen observer from home – particularly as ex-teammate Errol Gulden joined the race for a surprise victory.
This year’s retirement group looks set to be one of the most successful in years, with premiership captains Trent Cotchin, Joel Selwood and Shannon Hurn alongside flag heroes Isaac Smith, Jack Riewoldt and Luke Shuey.
In an unusual move, McLachlan practically begged the two-time premiership player to accept her invitation.
“Mate, we would love to have you here on Saturday,” he said on Wednesday.
“And 100,000 fans at the ‘G and millions of fans across Australia would like to say goodbye to you because you were one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.”
Franklin’s early retirement following his injury was called into question as the Swans, who were 12th in the league table when he was called out, continued their winning ways and reached the final.
Earlier this month, former teammate Josh Kennedy joked that Sydney coach John Longmire would have to bring Franklin out of retirement in September.
But the former Swans captain walked back his comments as he continued to press for Franklin’s decision.
“When he makes a call like that, it’s decisive and he knows what he’s doing,” Kennedy said.
“I just think from a Swans perspective when you have a champion like that you would like to have him there in September.”
Sydney fans had taken the opportunity to show their appreciation to Franklin for a remarkable career that spanned 172 games over ten seasons with the Swans after 182 games for Hawthorn.
“I saw him in the race before he dropped out and he was a little nervous right at the halfway point, and then I saw him when he finished his lap and he was a little emotional,” Longmire said.
“It was just great to see how much it meant to him and it certainly would have meant a lot to the fans.”
“It was great to have him back and he just said it was great.
“I’m really glad he had this experience. I am glad that our fans here also had this experience because he has made a huge contribution to this football club for 10 years.”
– with Glenn Valencich and AAP