Burning spear Franklin bounced back from an unusually quiet final to spark Sydney’s explosive opening in the AFL preliminary final against Collingwood as they held on for a one-point victory at the SCG.
Franklin was heavily involved and kicked two goals as the Swans created what proved to be enough to pull away against the Magpies after going scoreless for the first time in the finals when the Swans beat Melbourne.
But the 35-year-old Franklin perhaps saved his biggest impact for the final moments, taking a strong contested mark against two opponents on the wing with less than two minutes remaining, and the Pies were on the rise.
“What a finish, wow. Well done to our guys.” Franklin Fox Footy said.
“They fought very hard, they were a very good team. We knew they would come, and they did.
“It’s been an incredible season. Getting to the grand final is the most pleasant thing. That’s why we play with our feet. We have to be at our best next week.
“I felt myself for over thirty seconds, that’s for sure.”
The star forward was badly beaten by Demons defender Stephen May and was limited to seven disposals in the qualifying final, but surpassed that in the first half with the same number of touches, five marks and 2.1 against the Pies.
Franklin’s second big hit was his 74th in 27 finals and tied Richmond legend Jack Titus for the third most goals in finals.
Hawthorn kicker Jason Dunstall’s goal total is now within reach of the grand final against Geelong, with Collingwood forward Gordon Coventry kicking 111 goals.
Franklin was best at running back Brayden Maynard until Jeremy Howe was switched to him late in the second semester and Darcy Moore got the assignment after the main break.
The short Maynard looked gruff and distracting Franklin at every opportunity and the Pies hardman was even seen wiping the oil off the hands of Swans forwards after his second goal.
Franklin responded with controlled aggression, making an impact in the first half both inside 50 and taking part in the Swans’ passes through the center of the ground.
He played a crucial role in Dylan Stevens’ second goal of the match after finding space in the center square and helped carry the ball to the ground 10 meters from goal for Ryan Clarke to fire home the second moments later.
Moore limited Franklin’s impact after the main break after worrying young Swans forward Logan McDonald and veteran Sam Reid in the first half as the Swans led by 30 points at the break.
The grand final against the Cats will be Franklin’s sixth appearance in the decider after winning two premierships at Hawthorn but losing twice on the main stage since moving to Sydney ahead of the 2014 season.
“He’s played in grand finals before, he’s getting an opportunity to play in another one,” Swans coach John Longmire said.
“He also knows how hard it is to beat them. He respects the scene.”
Franklin Out of contract after this season, he is said to be considering a 19th AFL season.