Buddy rapt to return to the footy field

Fun and football are back on the agenda for Sydney superstar Lance Franklin, who never doubted he would return to the AFL despite a mental health issue.

Franklin will return in the opening round game against Collingwood at the SCG on Saturday, over six months since his last AFL match against Gold Coast.

He revealed the mental health issue which forced him to miss last year’s finals series was ongoing, but said he never contemplated quitting the game.

“There was never any doubt in my mind I was going to come back, I love playing football,” Franklin said on Monday.

“For me, it was just about getting back on December 1 (for the start of pre-season training) and training as hard as possible and getting my body in the best possible shape for round one and I’m able to do that.

“But now the fun begins, it’s round one.”

Asked about dealing with his mental health issue Franklin said “it’s definitely ongoing for me.

“I’ve got that support network around me and that’s the most important thing and I’ve just got to continue to speak to those people around me and get on with it as best I can.”

“It’s about having those people around me that I’m able to talk to if I am having a bad day or a good day.

“It’s just about being open with the way I speak to everyone and I just want to play football.”

He praised his partner Jesinta Campbell, the public, the football club and his family for their support.

Swans’ coach John Longmire said Franklin was ready to play a full game this Saturday.

“He’s done absolutely everything and then some this year, so he’s in great physical condition to be able to take the season ahead,” Longmire said.

Franklin said he had always targeted playing round one.

“Probably it’s been the fittest I’ve been since being up here,” said Franklin, who is about to embark on his third campaign with the Swans.

“I’ve been able to do most training sessions and the confidence is up leading into the season.

“I was fortunate enough to play the three (pre-season) games and for me that’s a really good lead-up into round one.”

Although Franklin was used on the ball at times through the pre-season, Longmire said his star spearhead would spend most of his time up forward, but would be at the occasional centre bounce.

After a quiet start in games against Port Adelaide and GWS, Franklin tallied 20 touches, three goals, five goal assists and seven marks in the Swans’ final pre-season hitout against Carlton.

The most prolific goalkicker currently playing, Franklin needs one goal to draw level with Dick Lee (707 goals for Collingwood) in 20th spot in VFL/AFL history.

He averages four goals a game against Collingwood across 14 encounters with the Pies, but finishing with a big haul won’t be uppermost in his mind on Saturday.

“It’s not about the goals, it’s about getting out there and having fun and hopefully getting a win,” Franklin said.

AAP aw/ptj

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