The ten most iconic goals of Lance Franklin’s journey to 1000

AFL, featured, Lance Franklin

There has never been a footballer quite like Lance Franklin. Most likely, there never will be again.

From the moment he burst onto the scene in 2005 as a precocious 18-year old with talent to burn, through his rise to AFL superstardom at Hawthorn, and then on to football immortality with an equally incredible career at Sydney, ‘Buddy’ has thrilled, teased, delighted, exasperated and wowed us all in equal measure.

Now, he’s the sixth man to join the elusive 1000-goal club, alongside football icons Tony Lockett, Gordon Coventry, Jason Dunstall, Doug Wade and Gary Ablett Senior. Ablett excepted – or maybe even Ablett included – you’d be hard pressed to pick any of them over Franklin.

To celebrate the great man, I’ve decided to trawl through the archives, scour the footage, and come up with a definitive list of Lance Franklin’s most iconic goals.

It’s an almost impossible task to pick out Buddy’s best goals from the swathe of highlights he’s provided over 18 seasons and more than 300 games.

This one, for example, would rank as most players’ finest moment… yet it doesn’t even come close to the final ten I’ve come up with.

The key word, therefore, will have to be iconic. Maybe not the best in terms of his boundless skill – but the majors that have defined his career, changed the game, and turned one of the most talented players of all time into the phenom that he has become across the nation, even in the rugby league heartland of Sydney.

Anthony Hudson said it best: “This is the greatest showman!” And so he still is.

Let’s get cracking with…

10. “People Power has spoken!” (Round 22, 2008)

The moment: Lance Franklin slots his 100th goal of the season… and everyone goes nuts

If 1000 goals seems like a lot (spoiler alert: it really should), imagine kicking one-tenth of those in a solitary year. In modern footy, with so much emphasis on team defence, and forwards expected to work up the ground and provide more than just goals, bagging a century has gone from relatively commonplace in the ’80s and early ’90s, to just about impossible today.

So it’s only fitting that the most recent player, and perhaps even the last ever, to reach triple digits in a single season is none other than L. Franklin.

In the course of a 2008 season where he took the competition by storm – Adam Cooney winning the Brownlow Medal that year perhaps the most egregious example of all of that award becoming a midfielder’s alone – the countdown began in earnest about midway through the year. Could he do it – or better yet, do it in the home-and-away rounds?

Cut to Round 22, against Carlton, whose own spearhead, Brendan Fevola, was within a big bag of his own triple-figure tally. The stage was set for Franklin… and, as always, he seldom disappointed.

“Here’s the moment!” exclaimed Channel Ten caller Stephen Quartermain as Cyril Rioli chipping into the waiting arms of the number 23 in the forward pocket. As security prepared to do… well, something, in stepped Franklin.

Bullseye.

“Lance Franklin joins the 100 club!” cried Quartermain, as the cheers of the crowd gave way to a sight not seen for years – a mass of people, thousands strong, descending on Docklands to mob the milestone man.

“It’s like you’re Mick Jagger!” boundary rider Mark Howard said to Franklin in the aftermath, as the champion was whisked from the field by security to wait until things died down. Peh. I’ve never seen Jagger take five bounces down the wing and finish on the run in the forward pocket.

If this entry seems a tad low on the list, it’s because the central character of the moment isn’t Franklin himself, but rather, the sheer joy he brings to the game. No matter whether you supported Hawthorn or Carlton that night, Buddy’s 100th goal brought everyone together – quite literally.

Quarters was bang on that night – people power spoke. It’s taken until now to see those scenes repeated – the SCG certainly weren’t about to be outshone fourteen years on.

9. “Dennis, where are you?” (Round 22, 2017)

The moment: Seven years on, Buddy re-enacts his most freakish goal

Sequels are rarely better than the originals (sorry, Huddo). And so it goes that one of Franklin’s finest ever goals as a Swan, coming in a thrilling, hard-fought match against the top side on their home turf, gets shunted this far down the list. We’ll get to the original in due course.

As an aside, though, while Buddy’s epic sprint down the MCG wing with Cale Hooker bearing down on him was a remarkable act of athleticism, this goal against the Crows is admirable because of its imperfections. Rarely before has Franklin ever looked so, well, human when conjuring the impossible.

Nevertheless, it speaks to his extraordinary physical gifts that from the moment Franklin so much as gets a metre on Daniel Talia, still 90 metres from goal, that Bruce McAvaney’s mind instantly starts moving towards the possibility of him kicking it. So too, presumably, did everyone watching at home or in the Adelaide Oval stands.

From there, though, things get… dicey. This time, the second bounce, so precise seven years earlier, lurches out of his control, prompting a round of Bronx cheers from Crows fans who must have felt relief that it wasn’t going to happen to them. Don’t know about that one, chief.

The ball, though, as it so often does with Buddy, ceded to his will, bouncing up nearly perfectly back into his grasp, almost without him breaking stride. Now at the 50, Franklin, steadies, steadies… and to the eyes of many Crows supporters, took a step too far. But it wasn’t called – imagine the cojones on the umpire who pinged Buddy for that?

The kick, too, is a shade wobblier than his effort at the MCG, which scythed through the knife air like a missile directed at the goal umpire’s hat. It’s neither deliberately directed along the ground, nor a classical drop punt.

Yet despite all that, it never looked like missing.

Franklin rarely, if ever, offers even the remotest possibility of us mere mortals emulating his efforts. Even here, surely none of us would be able to pull it off, even with the aid of being permitted a wayward bounce or an extra step beyond the legal limit.

But damn it if it’s not as close as we’re ever going to get.

8. “Has it got the carry? I THINK SO!” (Grand Final, 2012)

The moment: Franklin sparks Hawthorn’s third-quarter surge with an audacious 60-metre monster

The most underrated grand final of the modern era featured one of Franklin’s most underrated great games. Matched up on an All Australian opponent in Ted Richards, only errant kicking held Buddy back from securing the one accolade that has thus far eluded him – a Norm Smith Medal, and most likely in a winning team.

With Sydney 22 points up midway through the third quarter, up stepped Franklin, in the first of his game-changing moments. Outpointing Richards on the 50m arc, he wheeled around, letting fly from 50, and split the middle.

His second for the quarter, however, was even more remarkable. Once again leading Richards to the ball, Franklin clunked a monstrous contested mark – never his strongest suit – right on the Sydney logo on the forward flank. Once again wheeling around – this time, though, towards the boundary rather than inboard – the ball leaves his boot at least 50 metres from goal.

“Has it got the carry?” ponders Dennis Cometti on Channel Seven’s coverage. Then, as Brad Sewell moves to hold out Dan Hannebery near the goal line as the ball bypasses them both anyway: “I THINK SO!”

The Hawks would go on to lose that grand final in heartbreaking fashion, despite leading well into the final quarter. Franklin, for all his heroics, would have a day more remembered for his 3.4 in front of goal (and one further out on the full) than his mesmerising brilliance in that third quarter, when the game turned.

But in that moment, as that ball whistled past Sewell’s head and through, it seemed the most natural thing in the world for Buddy to turn it on again.

7. “It’s an MCG special!” (Round 3, 2013)

The moment: Hawthorn go end-to-end in 13 seconds thanks to some Buddy brilliance

Eddie Betts may have become forever associated with the goal of the year, having won four off his own boot – but Buddy is no slouch either, bagging the gong twice. Again, we’ll get to the first time he did it later.

Like his effort on Adelaide in moment 9, the sheer quality of this Franklin goal is underrated – not by imperfection, but rather, by perfection. Hawthorn swept the ball from end to end in just 13 seconds of unimprovable football, with their skill and speed slicing Collingwood apart from sternum to scapula.

But look at Franklin’s role in this. Running at full tilt through the middle, he calls for the handball from Ben Stratton, only to see him fall directly into his path after a lunging tackle from Sam Dwyer. For most 196cm men, even the professional athletes, that would present a problem.

For Buddy? Easy as pie. He hurdles the pair – remember, he’s travelling now at virtually top speed – barely decelerating at all as he does so. Then, from 80 metres out, he does what Buddy does – forget setting up a teammate or pinpointing a pass, the goal mouth is free, and I’m having a crack!

“This will be something! It is!” Bruce McAvaney’s infectious enthusiasm made for the perfect accompaniment for more Franklin wizardry. With the rest of his year largely underwhelming as the Hawks, consigned to losing him to free agency at season’s end, used him in a different role further afield, it was probably the last time Buddy waved his magic wand in the brown and gold.

6. “He’s the Usain Bolt of football!” (Qualifying Final, 2008)

The moment: Buddy embarrasses Brian Lake with supreme skill and strength for one of eight goals for the night

By the 2008 finals series, Franklin was already entrenched as the premier player in the game – kicking 100 goals in a year tends to do that. He’d also proved himself a match-winner on the biggest stage, having bagged seven in the Hawks’ elimination final thriller the year previous (more on that later).

But it was on this night at the MCG that Franklin stamped himself as not just a modern great, but as a specimen unlike anything the AFL had ever seen before.

Already sitting on six goals as a handy Dogs defence featuring All Australians Dale Morris and Brian Lake was made to look second-rate, the latter was forced to wait an eternity under a high ball towards the Hawks’ forward 50. Against most power forwards, that Lake enabled the ball to hit the ground would have at least been enough for a stalemate.

Against Buddy? Fat chance.

With the ball now bouncing out of Lake’s reach, Franklin’s athletic attributes come into full view. With the Hawk tapping the ball into space, but away from him, Lake moves to bump him away. But Franklin holds firm – and it is the Bulldog who concedes ground. Now with nothing between he and the Sherrin, he gathers, and is off in a flash.

In a mere moment, there’s enough space between he and Lake, who hasn’t done a whole deal wrong, to fire off a shot from 50 that, again, never looks like missing.

“Oh, gee, he’s so good!” McAvaney, almost rendered speechless, chuckles. “That is a MIRACLE goal!”

More praise was soon to come, with Bruce dubbing Buddy ‘the Usain Bolt of football’, the Jamaican sensation having won his first Olympic gold medals at that year’s Beijing Games.

It’s a lofty comparison… for Usain.

5. “Give him a longer contract!” (Round 13, 2014)

The moment: Two goal of the season contenders within ten minutes single-handedly sink the Power

Heading to Sydney on a nine-year, $10 million deal, it took a few weeks for Franklin to find his feet in the harbour city. With the Swans 1-3 and Buddy already attracting off-field controversy after a series of incidents, things had certainly got off to a rocky start.

But by the time the Swans faced an emerging Port Adelaide mid-season, Franklin was back to being the Buddy of old. And he’d soon put to bed any lingering doubts over the size of his contract to bed for good.

With Sydney a solitary point up and under ten minutes remaining, Franklin marks on the wing, seemingly a kick and a half from goal. Seemingly.

As Power defenders streamed into the space, Buddy quickly realises he has but one option: all or nothing. And so, from 70 metres out – yes, I know, the SCG dimensions aren’t to be trusted – he winds up.

“Then he really would be worth all the money they’re paying him!” commentator Anthony Hudson exclaims, voice rising in pitch as doubt turns to expectation turns to reality. Franklin’s kick carries all the way to the goal line, and no ball is ever going to be cruel to Buddy.

And that was just the taster. Minutes later, with the Swans still in a tight tussle, Franklin gathers the ball after narrowly missing a mark. Surrounded by Power defenders, hemmed in on the boundary line, most players would content themselves with a hacked kick closer to goal.

For Buddy, though, nothing so trivial would suffice. Assessing his options long enough for teammate Nick Smith to run in and provide a screen, the gap opens. And he’s away.

“Buddy’s still going!” Hudson says, as Franklin bursts clear, still 50 metres from goal, and fires. “Buddy’s stILL GOING!” hee continues, as the kick sails through. “HE’S UNSTOPPABLE!” as the ball clears the goal line.

Jason Dunstall, though, probably sums it up best with his three syllables: “Aw-haw-haw”. It was that good.

4. “Thirteen! THIRTEEEEEN!” (Round 10, 2012)

The moment: Buddy’s career-high goal haul on the siren, called iconically by Anthony Hudson

Did I mention that this man is a showman?

As if to prove the difficulty of the act in the modern game, Franklin would only twice ever finish with double-figure goals in a match. The first of those, in an otherwise frightfully dull mid-season match in Tasmania, would instantly become Anthony Hudson’s defining call.

As anyone who owned him that day in SuperCoach can attest, Buddy was at his brutal best all day. With North Melbourne frantically running through defenders in a bid to find someone – anyone – to curb his influence, the goals just kept stacking up.

Just one to quarter time became six at the half – and by the midpoint of the third term, he had his first ever bag of ten.

And more was to come, number eleven coming earlier in the last, before the magic tricks began. Franklin’s twelfth goal is still one of his best, bursting away from a pack, running towards the boundary, an unleashing an extraordinary bullseye from the dead spot for any other left-footer.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to sit back and enjoy the show!” Hudson cried – but you’re not here for that quote.

With just ten seconds left in the match, and the Hawks leading by 109 already, Buddy had one last trick for the road. Trapping a pass at his feet, having opted against diving for the mark, a despairing Nathan Grima lunge was never going to be enough.

The siren was an afterthought – Hudson’s famous “Thirteen! THIRTEEEEN!” was loud enough to suffice. A showman till the end – in this case, absolutely literally.

3. “He’s kicked a miracle!” (Preliminary Final, 2011)

The moment: An outrageous goal has the Hawks all but into the grand final… or so it seemed

Curse you, Ryan Schoenmakers. We were one chest mark from you away from one of the greatest moments in finals history.

This goal ticks every Franklin box imaginable – the state of the game, the occasion, the freakish skill, the hapless defender powerless to stop him. Every box, that is, except the happy ending. This is the only moment on this list that doesn’t end with Buddy as a winner.

It’s all over in five seconds, and can be divided into five distinct parts. In none of them does Chris Tarrant put a foot wrong.

Part one: Schoenmakers drives a long ball inside 50, where it trickles away in front of Franklin, with space all around. Tarrant knows he’s in strife. “Here comes Buddy!” Cometti exclaims

Part two: Tarrant, hamstrings presumably screaming, manages to keep pace with Franklin. Cleverly, he’s blocked off the inside passage, meaning Buddy can’t wheel around onto his left foot. Franklin knows this, too, which is why he’s not going at full tilt quite yet.

Part three: Franklin knows he needs to find space, somewhere, but with Michael Osborne and Nick Maxwell in front and to his right, he can’t go there. That leaves one option: to the left, towards the boundary line. So that’s where he taps it.

Part four: Franklin, Tarrant still in hot pursuit, gathers the ball, and now he knows it’s time to go. Within a split second, he’s clear of Tarrant, but the Magpie has a trick: he knows a Franklin snap is the danger, and so is guarding his back shoulder, conscious of a baulk. He’s left Franklin with only one option: a left-foot dribbler, made even more difficult with Maxwell and Osborne rapidly moving into its path.

Part five: Franklin, at top speed, pulls the trigger on the dribble, as Tarrant, who has played it near-perfectly, makes a last desparing lunge. It’s not enough. The ball, with enough heat on it to beat the on-rushing Pies defenders over the line, but kicked deftly enough to spin perfectly, too, rolls as if magnetised through the big sticks.

“He’s kicked a miracle!” Yes indeed, Dennis.

It’s a travesty it wasn’t the match-winner too.

2. “What an inspiration!” (Elimination Final, 2007)

The moment: Franklin arrives as a megastar with a last-second match-winner – his seventh

Big bags in finals are rare these days – heck, they were rare on the day, back in September 2007, Lance Franklin announced himself as an out and out superstar.

Having trailed all day to a fired-up Adelaide, and down by 14 points as the final term began, the Hawks had one ace in the hole: Buddy. Two goals within minutes midway through the term, as part of a four-goal rush, had Docklands rocking and the Hawks in front.

Cut to the 29th minute, though, and the Crows had responded, two majors of their own putting them back in front by three points. Enter Franklin again, on a hard lead, picked out by Rick Ladson on 50.

We know better now, but back then, we were only getting used to the idea of Franklin being a non-conventional left-footer: that rather than the traditional right to left hook, his would swing in the opposite direction. Ideal for that exact spot on the ground, one he would make his own for years to come.

“This, to put the Hawks in front, with just a few seconds left in the elimination final,” Michael Christian calls from the commentary box. Shout out to Ten, too, for a perfect camera angle on the kick (*stares pointedly at Seven*): placed perfectly behind Franklin, the shot follows the ball as it swings out, seemingly across the face… before feeding back majestically, straight through the middle, as every Hawk begin the goals rises to their feet.

“What an inspiration!”

Then, for good measure, there’s the casual turn to the crowd, the cheeky grin, the double first-pump. I mentioned he was a showman, yeah?

1. “It’s a one-man Fatwa!” (Round 13, 2010)

The moment: Cale Hooker becomes a meme forever

Well, we all knew this one was coming.

Yes, it’s a dull pick for Franklin’s most iconic moment – but it’s also the right one. Dispute Buddy’s place among the game’s greats until the cows come home, but there is no one in AFL history who could do what he did on this unforgettable night at the MCG.

Twice.

Would the first goal be remembered as fondly if not for the second? It’s unlikely, but then, it’s also true that the second goal is enhanced even more by the first. They work in perfect harmony, and encapsulate the magic of Buddy Franklin: a man so good as to kick two all-time great goals, back to back, within 10 minutes.

The situation? A thrilling last quarter. Check that box. The stage? The MCG, in front of 54,148 screaming fans. Yep, that’ll do too. Winning the match? Franklin had that covered as well.

We’ll start with the first one – because by Jove, is it a goal in its own right. With space in front of him, Franklin runs onto a handpass from Jordan Lewis, and is instantly five metres to the good of Mark McVeigh.

With no one in his path, and McVeigh still in his slipstream, he knows what must come next. He runs right to the 50m arc – in truth, he could have run further – and goes for a wormburning, rolling dribbler that runs as if magnetised through the big sticks.

“Four goals to Buddy Franklin, and that’s probably the pick of them!” enthused Cometti. Sorry, Dennis, but that didn’t age well.

Five minutes later, miracle number two – and if the first was turning water into wine, this was the healing the blind man of Frankin’s divinity.

The set-up is similar – a free wing, a Bomber – this time Cale Hooker – panting desperately in his wake. “It’s a one-man Fatwa!” Cometti exclaims.

But this time, the Dons know what’s coming – or at least, Jarrod Atkinson does, who has gone hell for leather at the goalsquare to stop Buddy from going along the ground again.

No matter. This time, he runs even closer to the boundary, to what should be the impossible angle for a left-footer, takes a step to steady, and goes for the drop punt. The goal umpire hardly shifts.

Tom Harley, a dual-premiership captain who saw plenty in his time, was reduced to giggles in the commentary box. So were all of us – except for the Bombers fans out there, who presumably still wake up in a cold sweat every other week with visions of Hooker’s chase.

It’s not just Franklin’s best ever goal – it is, for me at least, the greatest goal of them all.

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