IT WASN'T always easy for Lance Franklin in Sydney.

A month into Buddy's monster nine-year contract, the Swans were 1-3 and the star full-forward had kicked just seven goals and was battling with fitness.

Former assistant coach Stuart Dew, who had played alongside Franklin at Hawthorn five years earlier, takes up the story as Sydney prepares to play Fremantle at the SCG in round five, 2014.

"His knee was sore, his ankle too, he was really struggling with his body," Dew told

Lance Franklin looks on after Sydney's loss to GWS in R1, 2014. Picture: AFL Photos

"He was banged up. It wasn't fair to put him out there, he's copping heat because he's not performing, we were copping heat as a club.

"We'd decided to not play him. He walked into match committee, with all the coaches sitting there, and said 'I'll play'. 

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"He said, 'They'll have to play their best defender on me, and I'll run him out of the way and provide a channel for someone else to goal'.

"That was a sign of his ultimate maturity and putting the club first. Not everyone does that.

"He knew he'd roll out and probably not play that well. 

"We got the win and from there the season just changed."

Lance Franklin and the Swans celebrate a win over Fremantle in R5, 2014. Picture: AFL Photos

Sydney won by 17 points on the back of Franklin's 4.2 and began a march that would take it all the way to the Grand Final.

Above all, the incident highlighted to Dew a couple of traits he knew Franklin always had: a team-first mentality and a competitive streak that goes far beyond his immense talent.

"It wasn't the (Michael) Jordan 'flu game', he wasn't looking for credit, he didn't want the song and dance going into the game," Dew said.

"We couldn't help talking about it afterwards. You wanted people to know he wasn't right.

Stuart Dew talks to Sydney players, including Lance Franklin, in 2016. Picture: AFL Photos

"It was unbelievable. To understand the bigger picture, not just that game, the pressure the club was under after having recruited him.

"It was so unselfish of him. When a player walks in like that, it's hard to say no.


"When he walked out of the room, we all looked at each other and thought we have a special player here.

"He's team first and I think that's under appreciated."

Dew was a teammate of Franklin with the Hawks in 2008 and 2009, saying the younger version was always "unselfish" and was encouraged to take shots at goal from wherever he could, being more likely to kick them than not.

Stuart Dew and Lance Franklin share a laugh at Hawthorn training in 2008. Picture: AFL Photos

Getting to the Swans midway through his career, Franklin had noticeably matured, Dew said.

"The early days at Hawthorn he was having the time of his life playing the game – just get him the ball and he'll get it done," Dew said.

"What I noticed, whether it's me going from a player to coach or not, he thought about the game a lot more than he did as a young player.

"He's got a real eye for the game.

Stuart Dew, Lance Franklin and Grant Birchall celebrate a win over Carlton in R22, 2008. Picture: AFL Photos

"What gets underrated for a guy that has supreme talent and can do special things is how competitive he is."

It's a sentiment his long-time senior coach John Longmire agrees with.

"People see the talent, which is there for everyone to see, but when you're in the inner sanctum you see how much of a competitor he is and how ruthless he is," Longmire said.

"For me, that's what stands out about Lance Franklin."