THE AFL has apologised to Sydney superstar Lance Franklin after the forward was labelled a "coward" during a heated Tribunal hearing.

The Swans boldly took Franklin's striking case to the Tribunal in an attempt to have the talismanic forward available for Saturday night's blockbuster game against reigning premiers Melbourne.

But in a fiery virtual hearing, the AFL's legal counsel Andrew Woods delivered a stinging assessment of Franklin's conduct against Richmond veteran Trent Cotchin.

RECAP All the action as it happened from Buddy's Tribunal case

"It's a strike and not push," Woods told the Tribunal on Wednesday night.

"Did Franklin hit Cotchin? Of course he did as Cotchin had got under his skin. 

"There’s kids watching, there’s families watching, it’s cowardly behaviour."

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In an unprecedented move, the AFL formally apologised to Franklin for the remarks made by Woods.

"There are no cowardly players in the AFL, let alone Lance Franklin," an AFL statement read.

"Lance Franklin is a champion of our game. 

"Legal counsel assisting the tribunal used his own words to describe the circumstances of the strike on Trent Cotchin, namely that Mr Cotchin was reasonably not expecting to be struck by Mr Franklin. 

"Trent Cotchin is a premiership captain and one of the most respected leaders in the competition.

Trent Cotchin reacts after a confrontation with Lance Franklin in Sydney's win over Richmond in round 11, 2022. Picture: Phil Hillyard

"It is the AFL’s view that rhetorical flourishes of the nature used by both Counsel last night should not be part of the AFL tribunal process and they do not reflect the views of the AFL. 

"The AFL has today (Thursday) contacted Lance Franklin and the Sydney Swans to apologise for the comment and reiterated our respect for Lance and his standing in the game."

Cotchin's reputation also took a battering during the hearing as the Swans' lawyer Duncan Miller claimed the three-time Tigers premiership captain exaggerated the contact against him from Franklin.

"I suggest Cotchin might get an invite to the Logies instead of the Brownlow this year," Miller told the tribunal.

"The exaggerated head movement gave it away, then there’s a wry smile on Cotchin’s face."

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Franklin, who in March became just the sixth player in VFL/AFL history to kick 1000 career goals, was supported by teammate Tom Papley.

The small forward was on Thursday asked about the tribunal's comments regarding Franklin.

"What (Franklin's) done over his career speaks for itself," Papley said.

"He made a mistake and everyone makes mistakes but those comments probably aren’t needed."

The AFL's apology came 10 years to the day since Franklin bagged a career-best 13 goals in a famous outing for Hawthorn against North Melbourne.

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