LANCE Franklin has made a successful, albeit quiet, return to the AFL in the Sydney Swans' 21-point win over Port Adelaide in their NAB Challenge opener at Blacktown International Sports Park on Saturday evening.
Playing his first senior game since he returned to the club in December after seeking treatment for a mental health issue, Franklin finished with just six possessions and a solitary goal in the Swans' victory, but more importantly, finished the game unscathed.
Stand-in coach Jarrad McVeigh started the three-time Coleman medallist in the centre square at the opening bounce alongside ruckman Kurt Tippett, Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker.
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The star goalkicker also played as a deep forward in his usual role, but spent time as an onballer throughout, and while he didn't have a massive impact, McVeigh said it was pleasing for the Swans to have him in the side.
"It was great to see him back out there again and get a run around," McVeigh said.
"We played him through the midfield a little bit to get a few minutes up, so I was pleased with the way he went through the midfield and forward."
The Swans don't play their next NAB Challenge match until Friday, March 4 when they take on Greater Western Sydney, meaning the players have a 12-day break between games.
Franklin spent the final term against Port on the bench in what McVeigh said was a pre-planned move by the Swans' conditioning staff.
"Yeah it was, and a few of the others like 'Joey' (Josh Kennedy)," he said.
"We've got a week off this week and then we'll play two in a row and then (have) another week off.
"The older boys got a lot of game time today so I'm sure they'll be managed throughout the week and we'll see how that pans out with the other boys coming back from injury."
Power coach Ken Hinkley wasn't shocked to see Franklin start in the centre square and conceded the move probably helped the Power.
"It's probably a little bit safer for us when he's in the centre bounce because he's done a number on us a few times in the front half," Hinkley joked.
"We sort of predicted it I reckon, we basically said that we think 'Buddy' (Lance Franklin) will be in the first centre bounce.
"'Horse' (John Longmire) has talked about him being in the midfield and using him (there) and you don't say that sort of stuff unless you're going to throw it out there and have a go at it."