Lance Franklin clearly could not wait to tell the football world, “I told you so” this week.
The goal-kicking superstar shocked all by signing a monster nine-year deal with the Sydney Swans – and not the GWS Giants as expected by many – at the end of 2013.
The Swans, and Franklin, were smashed at the time by a chorus of naysayers who questioned the logic of such a long contract.
The man known as ‘Buddy’ – who sits fifth on the all-time VFL-AFL goal kicking table with 1047 goals – has not only completed the contract but this week announced a new one-year for 2023 after a 52-goal season to date.
In doing so, the 35-year-old proved he had a long memory by firing back at all the noisy critics after he fled Hawthorn and the Melbourne AFL fishbowl a decade ago.
“There have been a lot of knockers over the years, haven’t there really?” Franklin said this week.
“When I first got here people were knocking that I wouldn’t get there, I wouldn’t make it, [that] I’d play for four or five years and that would be it.
“I’ve definitely proved them wrong, haven’t I?”
He has, but he’s still yet to deliver the Swans a flag in his time at the club.
After falling short in the 2016 decider to the Western Bulldogs, Franklin will get his second chance in Saturday’s AFL grand final against Geelong.
His opponent is expected to be second-year Cat Sam De Koning, who remarkably was just three-years-old when Franklin was first drafted at the end of 2004.
It would be Franklin’s third premiership if the Swans can defy the bookmakers and upstage the favoured Cats, and arguably also his sweetest given he is in the twilight of a glittering career.
History repeats, or does it?
His first premiership win came with the Hawks all the way back in 2008.
That day, ironically, was against a red-hot Geelong side that went in as favourites.
After a season in which he became probably the last player to ever reach 1000 goals, Franklin will desperately be hoping history repeats itself on Saturday.
Danger’s last chance?
This will be Brownlow medallist Patrick Dangerfield’s second grand final, but his first at the MCG.
It could also be his last genuine opportunity to win a premiership medal, which has so far eluded him across two clubs and 302 games.
The 32-year-old had a quiet game by his lofty standards in the 2020 grand final, which was played in Brisbane due to the pandemic.
He gets his second chance on Saturday, and will go into the game in peak condition after starring in the preliminary final mauling of the Lions.
Dangerfield will be key if Geelong is to claim its first flag since 2011, which was Cats coach Chris Scott’s first year in charge.
Scott inherited that champion team, but he has put this squad together from scratch over a long time. Unlike in 2011, these are truly his boys.
If the Cats triumph on Saturday, this one will feel much sweeter and more satisfying for Scott.
Skipper Joel Selwood will also run out for his record-breaking 40th AFL final, overtaking Hawthorn legend Michael Tuck.
He still appears to be at the top of his game, but could he bow out should he win a fourth premiership medal and his first as captain? It has to be a chance.
Rohan the redeemer?
Will it be fourth time lucky for Cat Gary Rohan against his former club? Rohan has played in three losing grand finals, both with Sydney and Geelong.
As has been noted, his grand final record has been abysmal. In 2014, up against a rampant Hawthorn side, he had just seven touches for the Swans.
Then he had just five disposals and a goal two years later in the loss to the drought-breaking Bulldogs.
After moving to Geelong, he then had just five possessions in the 2020 grand final loss to Richmond at the Gabba.
Not that criticism about Rohan’s performances in big games appeared to faze him when reminded about his grand final record this week.
“Youse can write what youse write (sic), it doesn’t bother me,” Rohan told reporters.
“I don’t read it. That’s your job.”
Will Rohan finally bury his grand final demons on Saturday?
Who will take home the cup?
Geelong and Sydney appear to have been on a collision course for some time.
The Cats have won 15 in a row and the Swans are on a nine-game winning streak, which sets the scene for a highly anticipated premiership decider in front of 100,000 fans at the MCG and an expected massive national TV audience.
They have been the league’s two most consistent clubs for the past decade, so it’s only fitting they’ll meet in a grand final for the first time in VFL-AFL history (including the Swans’ South Melbourne history before their relocation north).
It all points toward a classic grand final, and the Cats look perfectly primed to secure their fourth flag this century and the famous club’s 10th overall in their long history.
Prediction: Geelong by 13
Norm Smith Medal: Tom Stewart (Geelong)