On Thursday night, the AFL world finally faced a reality it had been avoiding for many years.
Given how big the AFL All-Australian dinner was for Lance Franklin, it was only fitting that he had the quote of the evening.
Seconds after he was announced on stage as captain of the ceremonial lineup, the Sydney star was asked what he might say to his teammates in a pre-game huddle.
“Kick it to me,” was the key forward’s cheeky response.
Franklin looked stunned when he was named captain and the 31-year-old said it was an unexpected honour.
He has never been captain at Hawthorn or Sydney.
It is Franklin’s eighth All-Australian selection and he is only the fifth AFL player to receive so many in the league’s post-carnival era.
“I’m proud, I really am – it’s been a lot of hard work, not only by myself but by my teammates, to be the player I am today,’ he said.
“I’ve come a long way, obviously, from a 17-year-old boy drafted across from Perth … not only with my football, but the person I am today.
“I couldn’t ask for a better job, it’s amazing.”
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson and Richmond counterpart Damien Hardwick said Franklin was the sort of player who excites fans – themselves included.
“I must admit, I was sitting on the couch watching the Sydney-Hawthorn game (last weekend) and I was cheering for Buddy at the same time,” Hardwick said.
The Sydney star joins Gary Ablett Snr, Gary Ablett Jnr, Robert Harvey and Mark Ricciuto as eight-time All-Australians in the league’s post-carnival era.
Franklin has received half his All-Australian blazers since joining the Swans in 2014 and it further vindicates his monster nine-year deal with Sydney.
This year, he entered the AFL’s top 10 for goalkicking and is currently eighth on 917.
Franklin was named at centre half-forward in the All-Australian team.
West Coast’s Shannon Hurn is the only current club captain named in the All-Australian team.
Franklin finished fourth with 57 goals in a tight battle for the Coleman Medal, which was not decided until the last day of the regular season.
While Coleman winner Jack Riewoldt was named at full forward, Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins and North Melbourne key forward Ben Brown missed out on the final 22 despite finishing second and third in the Coleman tally.
West Coast onballer Andrew Gaff was named on a wing, despite missing the last three games of the season because of his year-ending eight-game suspension.
He has been in Melbourne because his father is seriously ill.
Gaff attended the All-Australian function on Wednesday night with his mother Susan, but did not talk to journalists.
2018 AFL ALL-AUSTRALIAN TEAM
B: Tom Stewart (Geel) Alex Rance (Rich) Rory Laird (Adel)
HB: Shannon Hurn (WC) Jeremy McGovern (WC) Lachie Whitfield (GWS)
C: Andrew Gaff (WC) Dustin Martin (Rich) Steele Sidebottom (Coll)
HF: Patrick Dangerfield (v-c, Geel) Lance Franklin (capt, Syd) Robbie Gray (Padel)
F: Jack Gunston (Haw) Jack Riewoldt (Rich) Luke Breust (Haw)
R: Max Gawn (Melb) Patrick Cripps (Carl) Tom Mitchell (Haw)
I: Shane Edwards (Rich) Brodie Grundy (Coll) Shaun Higgins (NM) Clayton Oliver (Melb).