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Buddy’s ball is back, Dons disaster as star faces long stay

Lance Franklin has found the ball with which he scored his 1000th goal on Friday night.

Sydney launched a campaign over the weekend to track down the fan who grabbed the ball in the SCG stands, with video of the incident going viral.

However, Alex Wheeler proved himself to be a man of honor when he returned the ball to the Swans at a press conference on Monday afternoon.

In return, Wheeler received a series of souvenirs signed by Franklin, including boots and a new Sherrin…and a story to tell the grandkids.

“I probably always intended to give it back to the Swans and Buddy,” Wheeler told the media.

“It won’t do me any good, unfortunately I don’t have a billiard room to install it.

“They [Wheeler’s friends] were like ‘man, you’re going to make an absolute fortune with this, you’re a moron if you don’t sell it much’. But I don’t think that’s the right way to do it.

“I want to see him back at SCG, so young AFL players can cherish this moment and see the ball.

“You get this image of an old man taking his son to football and showing him the ball, I would really like to see that.”

Wheeler also lifted the lid on his turbulent weekend, filled with paranoia at the thought of losing this piece of sports history.

“We went to one of the local pubs for a little while and I got too paranoid that someone was going to knock my foot off my house so I came home pretty early and snuggled it up in bed,” he laughed.

Franklin expressed his gratitude for the safe return of the ball, saying taking the SCG milestone in front of family, friends and a raucous crowd was “perfect timing”.

“I wanted to have it [the 1000th goal] done as soon as possible,” Franklin said.

“But it was the perfect time to do it here at SCG and then to have my family on the other side of America, Adelaide, Perth.

“It was such a special moment to have these people who went through everything with me.

“For me, it’s something I’ll look back on at the end of my career and be proud of.”

Despite heavy criticism of the SCG for lacking security, Franklin said he never felt unsafe, saying he “absolutely loved” the extraordinary scenes after scoring the goal.

“I was lapping to be honest with you!” he said.

“When I scored the 100 goals in 2008, at that stage I was very young and I thought that if I ever got 1000 goals I was going to really enjoy it. So I really soaked it up.

“At no time, for me personally, was I nervous or scared by the crowd. It was just a special moment, I absolutely loved it – and a lot of the boys who took part in it would have thought the same too.

“People around me were always talking to me and making sure everyone was okay.”

Lance Franklin and his fan Alex Wheeler pose with the iconic 1000th goal ball. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Bomber Blow: Reigning B&F will miss two months

Essendon’s winless start to 2022 has only gotten worse, with star midfielder Zach Merrett missing six to eight weeks after suffering an ankle syndesmosis injury against Brisbane.

The Bombers vice-captain, who won the club’s best and fairest and made the All Australian squad in 2021, suffered the injury in the final quarter of the club’s loss on Saturday, the football manager Josh Mahoney confirming the seriousness of the blow.

“We will consider surgery as an option for Zach, but it is likely that he will miss approximately six to eight weeks,” Mahoney said in a statement Sunday afternoon.

The news is a hammer blow to the Bombers’ chances of backing up their surprise Finals appearance in 2021.

Things won’t get any easier in Round 3, with the Dons taking on reigning Premier Melbourne under the Friday night lights.

Buddy’s ball is back, Dons disaster as star faces long stay

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

AFLW Grand Final locked, men’s game postponed

The AFL has confirmed that this year’s AFLW Grand Final will take place on Saturday April 9, with a men’s game postponed to give the game some fresh air.

The match kicks off at 12.30pm in the afternoon, with the clash between Sydney and North Melbourne, originally scheduled for 1.45pm, pushed back by 55 minutes.

The game was originally scheduled for Saturday April 2, but was thrown into limbo when Collingwood’s rising number of COVID cases forced their final qualifying game against Brisbane to be postponed for a week.

Final preliminary action this weekend will see Melbourne host the Lions at the MCG, the AFLW’s first game ever at the iconic venue, while Adelaide take on Fremantle at the Adelaide Oval.

If the Crows win, the grand final will also be played in Adelaide, while a defeat would ensure the winner of the Demons and Lions receives the hosting rights.

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