“It’s on his right side, so he has no history of injury to that side, so it’s a new injury. We can’t say right here and now how long he’ll be out, but we know it’s a decent injury and he won’t run for the next three to four weeks.
“Probably one of the positives is there’s no tendon damage in the hamstring.
“We think it’s slightly worse than the injury he sustained last year mid-season and he missed about nine weeks. That might be an indication, but we just don’t know until he gets into his rehabilitation and we see how he progresses.”
Franklin missed the first round of the season due to a right knee injury, but had been set to play when the season resumes in a fortnight’s time.
“He’d been able to put together a really solid block of conditioning training during the shutdown period,” Gardiner said. “He joined our small group skill session last week and did a session, although he pulled up sore towards the end of that session.
“We were just managing his running loads this week. He ran on Monday and felt good and so we were progressing with his running program yesterday [Wednesday] when he sustained the injury.”
It is the second time in as many years Franklin will miss a significant chunk of the year. There must now be huge question marks over the 33-year-old’s durability with still three seasons to serve of his blockbuster nine-year deal, which expires at the end of 2022.
Franklin, as is the case with all players, has taken a major pay cut this season. He will lose about 30 per cent of his pay for the rest of the season in which he had been due to pocket $1.4 million in a back-ended contract.
He was to receive $1.5 million next season and $1 million in 2022, but could lose 20 per cent, depending on pay negotiations between the AFL and the players’ association.
List sizes also appear set to be slashed, leaving clubs with a major headache if they have players on lucrative long-term contracts but who struggle to remain fit.
Paul Roos, the man who guided the Swans to the 2005 premiership, said clubs would need their superstar players more than ever to avoid significant injury should list sizes be cut dramatically.
“I guess to be fair to the Swans, no one knew what was going to happen with COVID when they signed the [Franklin] contract. That’s the difficulty,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s unique to Sydney. With a lot of different contracts, whether they are back-ended or front-ended, I think everyone in the industry, from what I am hearing, is going to take a hit.
“Now, whether it’s, and I am speculating, Nat Fyfe on $1.2 million or Buddy on $1.4, or Danger [Patrick Dangerfield] on $1 million or something, I don’t think it is unique to Buddy. As an industry, we are faced with some unique problems.”
While Franklin will still arguably be the highest paid player in the league next season, the Swans are expected to have enough salary cap room to again chase Joe Daniher, should the Essendon full-forward still want to head north. Daniher, however, has his own lingering injury issues.
If list sizes are slashed to as few as 35 next season, as clubs are preparing for, Roos said the days of carrying development players or those with long-term injuries would be over.
“It’s going to be fascinating,” he said. “I think what you will find, particularly if it gets down to 35, you just are not going to be able to carry anyone who has chronic injuries.
“It’s just going to become really tough and you are not going to have any development players. There are some really big decisions to be made, there is no question about that.
“We probably have another six months as an industry to work out collectively what the football department spend is, what the lists are and all that sort of stuff.”
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.