Swans play safe with Franklin AFL return

Lance Franklin featured for little more than a half of AFL football on Sunday but Sydney coach John Longmire hailed it as a significant step forward in the superstar’s recovery from a back injury.

In his first game back after missing three weeks, Franklin was handed the red substitute’s vest 10 minutes into the third quarter of the commanding 97-point win over St Kilda that all but sealed a top-four spot for the Swans.

The star forward looked well below his best on his way to seven possessions and a goal but Longmire was confident there was enough time for Franklin to find form ahead of the finals campaign.

“He usually comes to hand pretty quickly (but) that’s why it was important for him to play today,” Longmire said.

“He trained this week but we wanted to get some game time into him today and he’ll need it again next week.

“The plan will be to play the full game next week and just make sure that he plays some footy. We’re going to get some miles into him, he needs to play and that’s what he’ll do.”

Gary Rohan, who was returning from a knee injury suffered two weeks ago, replaced Franklin with Longmire reporting both would benefit greatly from the run.

The news wasn’t so good for defender Nick Smith, who limped out of the match minutes after Franklin’s departure with a hamstring issue.

“His hamstring tightened up,” Longmire said. “(We hope) it’s only minor but we don’t know at the moment. It just tightened up a bit and we went the cautionary route. Hopefully it’s ok but we don’t know yet.”

The Swans control their own top-four destiny after Sunday’s win, with a victory over lowly Gold Coast next week all that stands between them and a double chance.

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