Lance Franklin at Glenferrie Oval. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Without saying a word, Lance "Buddy" Franklin bade farewell to Hawthorn on Sunday. Franklin and the rest of the premiership Hawks were presented to a crowd estimated at more than 15,000 at the club's family day at Glenferrie Oval. When the few formalities were done, Franklin was last to leave the stage.
AFL Grand Final 2013 Hawthorn v Fremantle
Hawthorn players celebrate winning the 2013 AFL Premiership. Photo: Pat Scala
It became an apparently historic moment, poignant and lingering. Franklin faced each section of the crowd in turn, clapping his hands above his head. But his face conveyed no joy, indeed no emotion at all. Those nearest the stage seemed to sense the subtext.
For nine years, encompassing two premierships, Franklin has been Hawthorn's marquee player.
All year, he has been the subject of speculation about a move as a free agent to Greater Western Sydney. He was, by his standards, low profile in the preliminary and grand finals, though making timely contributions.
Post-match, he said he "absolutely loved" Hawthorn, that it had made him who he was. But harsh football realities apply. He is 26, still in his prime. Sources close to Franklin say that GWS's lavish offer has weighed heavily on him. And Hawthorn, though sad to lose him, might figure that it can survive without him as it shapes its team for future premierships.
Franklin volunteered nothing on Sunday, and no-one pressed him. But his body language was so unambiguous that it was very nearly quotable. With a heart both heavy and full, he was saying thanks for the memories.