STAR Sydney Swans forward Lance Franklin says he never considered retirement despite taking a temporary break from the game to battle mental health issues last year.
Franklin missed the Swans' disappointing finals campaign last season to seek treatment for an undisclosed mental illness, but returned to pre-season training in December and played in all three of the club's NAB Challenge matches.
The three-time Coleman medallist told a large media pack outside the Swans' headquarters on Monday that his treatment is still ongoing, and he'd always planned to continue his career this season.
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"There was never any doubt in my mind that I was going to come back, I love playing football, that's what I love to do," he said.
"I love training and being around the football club, so for me that was a no-brainer.
"It was about getting myself right off the field (and) mentally preparing as best as I possibly could, and getting back here on December 1, training as hard as possible and getting my body in the best possible shape for round one.
"I was able to do that but now the fun begins."
Franklin said his fiancé Jesinta Campbell, his close-knit family, the Swans and the footy fans in general had been fantastic since he went public with his mental health issues in September.
The former Hawk has kept the details of his illness and his treatment private, but said although he's in a better state heading into the 2016 season, he knows there's plenty of work still to be done.
"(The treatment) is definitely ongoing for me, but I've got to continue to speak to those people around me and get on with it as best I can," Franklin said.
"The biggest thing for me was having that support network around me, and I'm fortunate to have that and I'm very grateful.
"If I'm having a bad day or a good day its just about being open with the way I speak to everyone and I just want to play football.
"Footy is a massive part of my life so for me getting back has been amazing."
The Swans open the season against Collingwood, with Franklin fit and healthy after finishing the NAB Challenge with a brilliant three-goal, 20-possession effort against Carlton on March 11 at Etihad stadium.
Franklin spent some time in the midfield in the Swans' first two pre-season games, but resumed his usual role inside 50 and dominated against the Blues.
The 29-year-old said it's been a long pre-season and he can't wait for the year to start.
"It's very exciting to get back to the SCG on a Saturday night against one of the biggest Victorian clubs in Collingwood," he said.
"It's going to be an amazing opportunity for the football club and we look forward to the challenge.
"We love playing Collingwood, but for me it's not about the goals, it's about getting out there and having fun and hopefully getting the win."
Swans coach John Longmire said co-captain Jarrad McVeigh (knee) and forward Sam Reid (hamstring) have already been ruled out of the season opener.
Ted Richards (calf) and Ben McGlynn (hamstring) missed last week's NEAFL practice match and, while the experienced pair are unlikely to be risked against the Pies, they should play their first matches of the year in the reserves.