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Swan Songs - with Tony Franklin

In Jim Main's series, 'Swan Songs', on great players from the past, this week he talks to two-year Swans player and one-game Swans coach, Tony Franklin...
Tony Franklin
Born: December 18, 1950
Played: 1974-75
Games: 32

Although Tony Franklin spent only two years with the Swans as a player, his contribution to the club over many years has been invaluable.

Franklin was a highly-promising defender with Tasmanian club Penguin when he was approached by Fitzroy, Footscray and South Melbourne.

“I signed with the Swans because I had played a lot of my football at full-back and thought my chances of getting a game with South were better than with the other clubs,” he explained.

Soon after Franklin joined the Swans he was shocked to be presented with the club’s most famous number - 14, previously worn by triple Brownlow Medal winner Bob Skilton.

“I knew very well that it was a famous number and that it had not been worn since Skilton retired at the end of the 1971 season and I was delighted when Skilts made the presentation.

“I didn’t ask for the number, but I was more than happy to accept it as it was such an honour.”

Unfortunately for Franklin, he ran into severe hamstring injuries over his two seasons as a Swans player and tried all sorts of treatments in an effort to overcome them.

“They just kept tearing,” he said. “At one stage I even was sent to Sydney to have acupuncture treatment, but nothing seemed to work and I eventually realised I could not continue with the Swans.”

Franklin joined VFA (now VFL) club Sandringham and, amazingly, his hamstring problems disappeared. “I think the pressure of training and playing at the higher level had affected the hamstrings,” he suggested.

Franklin rejoined the Swans as reserves coach under Ian Stewart in 1979 and guided his young team to the 1980 Grand Final, only to go down to Geelong by 33 points.

“We put up a good effort, but it was disappointing because the Swans never won a VFL or AFL reserves premiership,” Franklin said.

The reserves competition was abandoned after the 1999 season, with the Swans runners-up to Carlton in 1927, to Melbourne 1956, to the Cats in 1980 and to North Melbourne in 1995.

Franklin spent three seasons as reserves coach, juggling these duties with a flourishing executive career in the trucking industry.

Then, when the Swans moved to Sydney in 1982, Franklin was appointed chairman of the match committee, but remaining in Melbourne.

He explained: “We still lived and trained in Melbourne at that stage but moved the following season. However, a number of players were still based in Melbourne for various reasons and because I was still there, I liaised with the club in Sydney via the telephone. We even had selection meetings over the phone.”

Franklin then stepped up to be the senior Swan coach in 1984 when Rick Quade resigned mid-season because of illness.

“It was a very difficult time,” Franklin recalled. “I had no ambition of being coach, but I was thrust into the role for the round 14 match against Collingwood at the SCG.

“Collingwood beat us (by 31 points), but the boys gave everything that day and I was immensely proud of their efforts.

“The club wanted me to continue as coach but, thankfully it was able to get South Australian Bob Hammond to coach it over the rest of the season.”

However, Franklin continued to serve the Swans, firstly as joint-chairman of selectors with Quade under the coaching of Col Kinnear (1989-91) and as a club director.

He is immensely proud of being a life member of the club and goes to as many games at the SCG or ANZ Stadium, usually sitting with good mate Quade.

“It has been quite a journey,” he said. “But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything, especially as the club now is stable and successful.”