The game is already won but the SCG still throbs with expectation. The Sydney Swans lead Geelong 101–69 in the Friday-night clash with under seven minutes to play. Yet when Lance “Buddy” Franklin collects an easy mark 30 metres from goal, the noise from the crowd is immense. People surge towards the Paddington end of the ground, clambering on top of advertising hoardings and scrambling onto the fringes of the oval, camera phones cocked at the ready. They’re primed to capture a moment of history. Franklin stands on 999 career goals and now has the chance to become only the sixth VFL/AFL player to reach the magic number of 1,000.
Ignoring the hubbub, Franklin steadies himself and takes stock. He eyes the goal with wary respect, as if it’s a mountain he is yet to summit. He takes a deep breath, then lopes forward on those long limbs, breaking into a trot, before his left boot connects to send the ball arrowing straight between the posts. What follows is that special form of deranged euphoria that sport can occasionally unleash. Franklin is engulfed by hundreds of Swans fans, the grass of the oval turning red and white from the ocean of supporters who swarm the field to celebrate with their conquering hero.
Coming on March 25, 2022, after months and months of pandemic gloom, the response to Franklin’s 1,000th goal — that riot of untrammelled joy — felt necessary. “I loved it, I loved it,” says Franklin when we speak on the phone. “It was such an amazing moment — to kick a thousand goals and have my closest family and friends there to witness it. That was something that I’ll cherish forever.”
Seen from another perspective, those scenes at the SCG were remarkable for being the first mass pitch invasion at an AFL ground since 2008. The man responsible for triggering the last one? A certain Lance Franklin, who provoked the delight of Hawthorn fans when he joined the exclusive ranks of the “Centurions” by kicking 100 goals in a single season. That Franklin is the common factor in both of these frenzies is no coincidence; it’s proof of the Buddy effect.