The ball Lance Franklin used to kick his historic 1000th AFL goal has been returned to him as the man who caught it revealed his paranoia about not wanting to lose the ball.
Sydney Swans fan Alex Wheeler stuck true to his word and on Monday returned the most in-demand Sherrin in years to Franklin at the SCG.
In exchange for returning the ball, Wheeler received a pair of boots, a Swans jumper and another football all signed by Franklin, as well as two five-year club memberships and a letter of appreciation signed by coach John Longmire.
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Speaking to reporters on Monday morning, Wheeler said he went “head over biscuits” to grab the footy after Franklin’s goal, which left him with several bruises. He said he felt like was the only fan attempting to grab the ball considering most around him were either filming the goal or close to the fence to run onto the ground.
After making the ball, Wheeler too jumped the fence and “had a pair of handballs to myself” on the field. He then caught a taxi home and left the ball in a safe space befire facing a nervous few hours.
“I didn’t even think about it (handing the ball back) that night. I obviously had a couple of stubbies and just trying to enjoy it myself, ”Wheeler told reporters.
“We went out to one of the pubs locally for a little while and I just got too paranoid that someone was going to knock the footy off from my house, so I went home pretty early and cuddled it up to bed.
“It probably wasn’t until the next day… It was probably always my intention to give it back to the Swans and Buddy. It’s going to be no good to me, I don’t have a pool room to put it up in unfortunately. ”
Wheeler said he had a few mates encouraging him to keep the ball.
‘They were like’ mate you’ll make an absolute fortune out of this, you’re a moron if you don’t sell it for a lot ‘. But I don’t think it was the right way to go with this, ”he said.
“I want to see it back at the SCG, so the young guys playing AFL can cherish that moment and see the ball. You get that image of an old man taking his son to the footy and showing him the ball, I’d really like to see that. ”
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Franklin said he was thrilled the footy had been returned as he reflected on his achievement.
“It’s nice of Alex to give the ball back. It was a really special night and to receive the ball back means the world to me, ”Franklin said.
“I haven’t had too much time to reflect on it just yet but obviously it was a significant moment. I absolutely loved it.
“I wanted to get it (reach the milestone) done as soon as possible,” Franklin said. “But it was perfect timing to get it done here at SCG and then to have my family across from America, Adelaide, Perth – it was such a special moment to have those people that have been through everything with me.
“For me, it’s something I’ll look back on when I finish my career and be proud of.”
The lack of protection around Franklin after kicking the goal was severely criticized by coaching the great Mick Malthouse, who labeled the security “pathetic”.
But asked if he felt threatened at any stage during the celebrations, Franklin said: “I was lapping it up to be honest with you. It was a little bit of carry on
“When I kicked the 100 goals in 2008, at that stage I was very young and I thought if I ever got 1000 goals I’m really going to enjoy it. So I really soaked it up.
“At no stage for me personally was I nervous or scared of the crowd. It was just a special moment, absolutely loved it – and a lot of the boys that were involved in it would’ve thought the same too.
“From where I was, everyone seemed in really good spirits and were happy. I didn’t feel uncomfortable with the situation at all. The people that were around me were always talking to me and making sure everyone was OK. ”
Asked if he’d like to play on beyond this year if he felt fit at the season’s end, Franklin said, “Totally. It’s the best job in the world being around a professional sporting organization for so long.
“But we’ll just work that out as we go.”