The AFL free agency period has officially begun, with Adelaide Crows defender Jake Kelly and Richmond Tigers tall Mabior Chol the first players to find new homes for 2022.
Refreshed maestro Lance Franklin has declared Sydney’s AFL season starts now, having booted six goals in a crushing 87-point win over Gold Coast to surge within striking distance of a magical milestone.
Franklin, who was rested last week, equalled his best haul of this season as the Swans warmed up for finals by triumphing 21.10 (136) to 6.13 (49) at Marvel Stadium.
The four-time Coleman medallist’s career tally now stands at 992 goals.
The iconic forward is one big bag away from becoming the sixth man to kick 1000 goals in VFL/AFL history, with all eyes certain to be on the 34-year-old when Sydney ‘host’ an elimination final and continue their stint away from home that started on June 22.
“My focus is on playing finals. If it comes, it comes,” Franklin told Fox Footy, having ensured his club made it seven victories from the final eight rounds.
“We always had belief … our best is good enough to play finals.
“The season starts next week for us.”
Young gun Callum Mills, who returned on Saturday but was still bothered by Achilles tendonitis and eventually substituted in the third quarter, was the only concern for Swans coach John Longmire.
Longmire conceded Mills is in doubt for week one of the finals, while he is no clearer as to whether co-captain Josh Kennedy will be able to return from his hamstring injury.
“We were concerned he was putting himself at risk,” Longmire said of Mills.
“He hasn’t played a lot of footy over the last six or seven weeks.”
Franklin had no such issues, setting the tone when he slotted the game’s opening goal after just 23 seconds.
The superstar moved freely, flew for marks, attacked the football fiercely and outmuscled and outwitted opponents in a display that bodes well for the Swans’ hopes of doing some damage in September.
“He felt really good today,” Longmire said.
“They (Franklin and Jake Lloyd) needed that week off, both of them came back and performed strongly.
“It was a terrific finish to the regular season.”
Longmire remains unsure where Sydney will play next weekend, vowing to adapt to whatever biosecurity protocols and venue the league settles on.
The Swans’ masterclass in pressure, capacity to repeatedly play on and move the ball quickly, precisely and potently meant it was anything but a perfunctory win.
Sydney boasted a 40-point lead early in the second term before the Suns finally kicked their opening goal of the contest.
Franklin, Lloyd, Luke Parker, Tom Hickey and Jordan Dawson enjoyed productive hit-outs in their finals tune-up, while Tom Papley, Isaac Heeney, Hayden McLean and Sam Wicks booted a combined ten goals.
“It’s disappointing,” Suns coach Stuart Dew said.
“Our last 11 games, I think nine have been against top-eight teams. There’s been some really good stuff but some poor losses.”