AFTER a couple of tough years trying to win games and kick goals while battling constant issues with his body, some have predicted the decline of Sydney superstar Lance Franklin.
He knows the knockers are there, not that the four-time Coleman medallist pays any attention to people who doubt his ability to play out his nine-year mega-deal with the Swans, which is set to expire at the end of 2022.
Franklin, who will turn 33 late next month ahead of his 16th season in the competition, played just 10 games in 2019, the worst tally of his stunning career.
Off-season groin surgery was the beginning of his problems, and he admits his desire to get back to the field as quickly as possible probably contributed to subsequent hamstring tears later in the season.
However, while Franklin admits he's been frustrated with his body, he couldn't have been more emphatic when AFL.com.au sat down with him at the Swans' base in Coffs Harbour, and asked him if he feels confident of getting back to his best in 2020 and beyond.
"There's no doubt in my mind," he said.
"Some people might think otherwise but I still feel young and fresh, so we'll have to wait and see."
The signs have been positive for Franklin so far this summer, with the big man fit and healthy and running well since training began in November, a rare treat for one of the game's greatest forwards.
He said the last time he was in this kind of shape during pre-season was late 2015, and the following year he led Sydney to a Grand Final appearance with an 81-goal season.
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"I'm not in full training yet but there's no doubt I'd be able to do it," he said.
"The club is holding me back a little bit, so I can build myself up gradually."
So, who has the job of controlling the intensity of the ultra-competitive Franklin at training?
"The fitness staff and big John (Longmire, the Swans coach)," he said with a laugh.
"I'm not 21 anymore, so it's about building towards next year rather than flying in December."
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Franklin isn't just a great of the modern-day game – he's sixth on the all-time goalkickers list with 944 majors from his 300 games – he also has a brilliant footy brain.
He's realistic about his future and while disappointed with his 2019 output, he refuses to let it weigh him down.
"It was the most frustrating year I've had but that’s football sometimes, it happens," he said.
"I tend to keep things in perspective.
"I've been pretty blessed with my body over time, I've had a lot of injuries, but I've been able to push through them and play.
"You've got to move forward, and I've got full confidence in my body and the program we've got in place at the footy club that I can get myself prepared for a strong season."
Plenty questioned Sydney's decision to not end Franklin's season once it was clear the team wouldn't play finals this year.
The former Hawthorn champion strained his troublesome hamstring against his old side at the SCG in round 14, but he was intent on playing again and returned for the Swans' round 23 clash with St Kilda.
The match just so happened to be Franklin's 300th game and was the final appearance of former club captains Jarrad McVeigh and Kieren Jack, with Heath Grundy and Nick Smith also entering retirement.
He kicked four goals from 10 marks and 14 possessions as Sydney finished the year in style with a 45-point win.
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Franklin said he never thought about quitting the season if there was a possibility he could get back to play, milestone or not.
"I would have liked to have played five or six weeks before then if I could have, but it was nice to be there for the boys' last game," he said.
"It was a special day and I'm so glad I got to run out and play the 300th at the SCG."
Franklin will continue to build his training over the next couple of weeks leading up to the Christmas break, and expects to be back in full training in January.