FOR MOST players in the AFL, seasons like the one Lance Franklin has just delivered would be considered a career year. But in the Sydney superstar's own words, 2018 has been a "frustrating" campaign.
However, after a testing period due to a series of fitness concerns, Franklin is back on the track with his Swans teammates and ready to take the momentum of being named the 2018 Virgin Australia AFL All Australian team captain into this year's finals series.
Franklin was rewarded for a campaign in which he kicked 57 goals from 18 games on Wednesday night, selected in the All Australian side for the eighth time in his career.
In doing so, the forward joined an illustrious group featuring only Robert Harvey, Mark Ricciuto and Gary Ablett jnr to be named in eight separate All Australian teams.
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But this year's selection carried extra significance. Not only was Franklin named captain of the All Australian side for the first time in his career, he was rewarded following a season in which he hardly trained due to injury.
Swans coach John Longmire made that startling revelation back in July, when he revealed that Franklin had "probably trained for about 20 minutes" all year due to a heel problem.
Immediately after Longmire's comments, Franklin booted 13 goals in three games to inspire Sydney's return to form and its rise up the ladder to a sixth-placed finish. But his incredible form streak was no coincidence, coming just after he had resumed full training.
"Prior to the GWS game, I'd spent probably three weeks on the track," Franklin said on Wednesday night.
"There was no doubt that actually helped, getting out there and being a part of it. It's been a frustrating year to not be a part of the group, running around with the boys.
"As 'Horse' said, I'd only trained for 20 minutes the whole season up until the last couple of weeks, so it's been frustrating in terms of getting out on the track. But I'll be right to go against GWS."
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Franklin missed a total of four games this year, absent for three in the first half of the campaign due to his heel problem and also sidelined in round 23 due to groin soreness.
However, he still averaged more goals per game than anyone in the competition this season, and would have done so without anyone knowing the extent of his injury issues, had his coach not shone light on them earlier in the year.
"It's not just me, a lot of blokes at this time of year are carrying injuries," Franklin said.
"It's only because 'Horse' came out and said that I'd only trained for 20 minutes … but, no, I'm feeling good. I'm feeling positive and ready to go. I'm just excited for the finals series."
His selection as captain of the 2018 All Australian side and his eighth All Australian blazer in 11 years added more outstanding achievements to one of footy's most impressive CVs.
Also a two-time premiership player and a four-time Coleman Medal winner, Franklin recently moved to eighth in the all-time AFL/VFL list of most career goals.
The 31-year-old says a relentless desire to improve is the reason for his continued excellence.
"It's humbling," Franklin said.
"To get these accolades, you've obviously got to work bloody hard. I feel that I have in my career, I've worked hard to become the player I wanted to become.
"I've never been happy with where I'm at and I've always wanted to improve as a player.
"It's something I'll look back on when I finish my career and be even more proud of."