• MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 31: Lance Franklin of the Swans celebrates a goal during the 2017 AFL round 02. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images) (Getty Images AsiaPac)Source: Getty Images AsiaPac
AFL legend Kevin Bartlett says it’s hard to look past Lance 'Buddy' Franklin as the greatest Indigenous AFL player of all time. Is he right?
Will Davies

7 Apr 2017 - 4:25 PM  UPDATED 7 Apr 2017 - 4:27 PM

Who is the greatest Aboriginal footballer to have ever played in the AFL? - Is it Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin? Is it Andrew McLeod? How about Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer?

Indigenous Australians havesignificantly contributed to Australian Rules football, both, as fans of the game and comprising of the sport's best players. 

But just who has been the best?

Richmond champion Kevin Bartlett, a ‘Legend’ in the AFL Hall of Fame and five-time premiership winner with the Tigers, says Sydney and former Hawthorn forward, Franklin, who will play his 250th AFL game when the Swans take on Collingwood on Friday night at the SCG, is the greatest Australia's seen.

Bartlett sung Franklin's praises on The Marngrook Footy Show on last night, 

“I don’t know whether we’ve ever seen a player, six-foot-five in the old, 199cm be as mobile, be as athletic,” Bartlett said.

“He can play fantastic in the midfield – his midfield kicking is just superb, probably even better than when he’s in front of goal, but I think that’s improved as well.

“I don’t know whether we’ve seen anyone of his size who can do what he does.

Certainly he’s the most exciting player in the game – no doubt about that. He’s a game changer. Not too many guys can be a game changer

“Certainly he’s the most exciting player in the game – no doubt about that. He’s a game changer. Not too many guys can be a game changer, but we saw last week, two of those great goals, 65 metres out, kicking those goals and nearly winning the game for Sydney.

“I would say that it’s pretty hard to look past him as the greatest Indigenous player of all time.”

Gilbert McAdam, a former St Kilda player, member of the SANFL Indigenous Team of the Century and AFLNT Hall of Fame, and now a host of The Marngrook Footy Show, was also quick to praise Franklin’s efforts.

“He’s matured so much,” McAdam said of the 30-year-old.

“He came straight out of high school, he’s come straight to Melbourne, straight from Western Australian country, not Perth, and he’s come as a little skinny little man; look at the size of him now – he’s Superman.

“He’s become the Superman of AFL – there’s no doubt about it.”

Franklin has had a remarkable career, having kicked 795 goals in his 249 games.

From Dowerin in Western Australia, the No.5 overall pick in the 2004 draft is a six-time All-Australian and a three-time Coleman Medallist. He has played in five grand finals, having won two of those with Hawthorn.

And there is plenty more football to come, with Franklin in the middle of a nine-year, $10 million deal at the Swans.

So, do you agree that Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin is the greatest Indigenous player of all time?

Here’s a look at just a few of the other candidates…


Adam Goodes

Played a club-record 372 games for the Sydney Swans and kicked 464 goals. Goodes won two AFL premierships with Sydney, including as co-captain captain of the side in 2012. He won two Brownlow medals (2003 and 2006), is a four-time All-Australian, a member of the Indigenous Team of the Century and was the AFL Rising Star in 1999.


Andrew McLeod

McLeod played 340 games for the Adelaide Crows and was the club’s best and fairest three times. The midfielder won the Norm Smith Medal as best player in the grand final in both of his premierships with the Crows, in 1997 and 1998. A five-time All-Australian, McLeod is a member of the AFL Hall of Fame and the Indigenous Team of the Century.


Michael Long


A trail-blazer for Indigenous players, Long played 190 games for Essendon and won two AFL premiership (1993, 2000). He won the Norm Smith Medal for best on ground in their 1993 grand final win and captained the cub in 1999. A two-time All-Australian, Long is a member of the AFL Hall of Fame, the Indigenous Team of the Century and the Essendon Team of the Century.


Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer

Farmer has received Legend status in the AFL Hall of Fame. The West Australian played 101 games for Geelong in between 255 in the WAFL. His ruck work and handballing revolutionised the game in Victoria, where at Geelong he won the 1963 VFL premiership and two best and fairest awards. A two-time All Australian, Famer was second in the Brownlow medal in 1963 and is a member of the Indigenous Team of the Century.


Gavin Wanganeen

Port Adelaide’s inaugural AFL captain, Wanganeen played 300 AFL games – 173 with the Power and 127 with Essendon. At the age of 20, he won the Brownlow Medal in 1993, the same year he won a premiership with Essendon. He also won an AFL premiership with Port Adelaide in 2004. A five-time All-Australian, Wanganeen is a member of the AFL Hall of Fame, the Indigenous Team of the Century and Essendon Team of the Century.

From 'Tiddas Tips' to 'Footy yarns', catch up on the latest Marngrook Footy Show episode here. Thursday nights, 7.30pm on NITV Ch. 34

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