JOHN Longmire's weekly media conference on September 7, 2015 was never going to be tame ahead of the Swans' massive final against Fremantle, but the footy world didn't expect to be rocked by news that Lance Franklin had stepped away from the game because of mental health issues.
The coach and co-captain Jarrad McVeigh stood stunned in front of the equally shocked media pack to pledge their support for the star forward, who to the outside world, had shown no signs of distress in the weeks proceeding the announcement.
The game's biggest star would play no part in the Swans' push for a premiership as he sought treatment for an unspecified and ongoing illness.
Mental health issues ruled Franklin out of the 2015 finals series. Picture: AFL Media
Franklin had battled back and rib cartilage troubles during the second half of the season but his presence was still immense on the field and the three-time Coleman medallist managed to kick 47 goals from 17 games last year.
Despite his tumultuous end to last season, Franklin is the still rated as the best forward in the game after coming in at No.7 in the AFL Players' Top 50, brought to you by Mars.
Debate raged about his future on the off-season break but the former Hawk returned for pre-season training in early December and looked fit, happy and healthy.
Franklin has had a near faultless summer; he's manhandled teammates and left them in his wake during match simulation thanks to his unique mix of raw speed, power and agility.
McVeigh and close mate Dan Hannebery have led the chorus of Swans who say Franklin has never looked better.
Lance Franklin's honour roll
|221 games||706 goals|
|Two premierships with Hawthorn (2008, 2013)||Coleman Medal 2008, 2011, 2014|
|All Australian 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014||112 career Brownlow votes|
Franklin's decision to step away from the game was shocking and courageous but by the way he's responded, the benefits of that hiatus might be worth the short-term pain for the Swans.
On the eve of the 2016 season, Swan teammates say Buddy has never looked better. Picture: AFL Media
Five moments that helped make Lance Franklin a footy superstar
1. Buddy sinks the Crows
The goal that launches Franklin's superstardom arrives in 2007 when at just 20 years of age, he slots a goal in the dying seconds to save the Hawks from elimination against Adelaide.
2. 113 goals in a premiership season
Franklin kicks 113.88 in 2008 at an average of 4.5 per match. No man has booted 100 goals in a season since.
3. Baker's dozen destroys the Kangas
Buddy racks up 22 kicks, 11 marks and a lazy 13.4 against the Kangas and rightly pockets the three Brownlow votes.
4. Swans deal
The footy world is astounded when Franklin leaves the Hawks in 2013 and lands at the Swans on a nine-year, $10 million dollar deal.
5. Buddy on the run, volumes one and two
The vision of Franklin bouncing his way towards the Punt Road end at the MCG to kick two stunning goals against the Bombers in 2010 has since become part of footy folklore. No other highlight better exemplifies the unique blend of speed, power, skill and confidence of The Bud than this pair of stunners.
Relive the best of Buddy in this highlights reel compiled for his 200th game:
The AFL Players' Top 50 is compiled with the support of the AFL Players' Association.