HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson paid tribute to three of the toughest players in the game – two from his victorious side and one from Sydney – after Friday night's thriller at the SCG.
For much of the night it seemed like Lance Franklin was constructing a fairytale, dominating up forward as the Swans worked their way back from 100 minutes of being in arrears.
In Indigenous Round, Franklin – wearing the No.67 guernsey to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum – kicked five goals to zoom into the top 10 goalkickers of all time and put his side on track for a fourth consecutive win.
Instead, it was the player on the other side wearing No.67, Shaun Burgoyne, who kicked the goal to put his side back within one point, having earlier kicked one of the classiest goals of the season.
From there, it was another player of the highest calibre, Jarryd Roughead, who sealed the win, with a clutch 55-metre set shot in the closing stages.
Clarkson, relieved and proud, heaped praise on the star trio.
"Both [Burgoyne] and Roughead, kicking 55-metre goals in the last quarter, it's pretty special," he said.
"Particularly in Indigenous Round, you've got Bud (Franklin) who's played particularly well for Sydney, and Shaun. They've just been great ambassadors for the game.
"It was a pretty significant milestone for all Aboriginal people, but particularly for those two boys. They've been the pin-up boys, I suppose, and carrying the can for their people for a long period of time.
"I think AFL has been a great platform to build awareness and acceptance. We still have incidents from time to time, but by and large … sport has been a great vehicle to provide that awareness and acceptance. That's a great thing for everyone concerned."
On Franklin, who had time out of the game in 2015 due to mental health issues, Clarkson continued: "I'm pleased to see him doing well. Pleased to see he's really content and happy in his life. He had a tough time he had to deal with, he and Jacinta, about 18 months ago. That would have been very tough.
"He's still very close to a lot of people at our football club, particularly the players, but he's held in such high regard by all of us coaches and administrators at the club. We wish him well - but hope he doesn't have a day out and kick five like he did tonight.
"He's a special player. It was all the more pleasing that he was able to have a significant contribution for them, but we were able to still win the game."
Clarkson was also full of praise for skipper Roughead, who continues his remarkable comeback from a cancer battle that saw him miss most of last year.
"It's been a tough road for him. But that's life and that's footy sometimes," he said.
"Bud had that little tough patch in his life, too, and that happens, whether it's injury, whether it's illness, this game teaches you to build character and demonstrate resilience.
"The really mentally tough can withstand the rigours of the game, both physically and mentally. Those two lads have enjoyed a lot of success in the game but they've also had tough periods in their footy careers and in their lives. It's pleasing they've been able to come out the other side and become stronger and better people for it."