When 'Buddy' Franklin slotted his historic 1000th AFL goal most of the SCG crowd emptied onto the field to get a piece of the AFL legend, except for Swans fans Alex Wheeler, who made a concentrated effort to pounce on the then-errant footy.
Wheeler then made his great escape unimpeded as he departed the SCG with a prized piece of football memorabilia. The Swans fan dropped the leather off at home before venturing out to a local drinking hole where the magnitude of his actions quickly began to dawn on him.
“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 on Monday.
“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 wasn’t probably 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.”
Luckily for Franklin, Wheeler executed a large degree of willpower to thwart off proposals he had from mates to keep, and then offload, the footy for an exorbitant fee.
“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 that was the right way to go with this,” he said.
— Sydney Swans (@sydneyswans) March 27, 2022
“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.”
This morning Wheeler had the opportunity to personally return the ball to Franklin at the SCG, where he was rewarded with an assortment of goodies from the Swans, which included:
- Signed pair of custom Buddy boots
- Swans guernsey and football signed by Franklin
- Two five-year club memberships
- Thank you letter signed by Sydney senior coach John Longmire
While these gifts may seemingly not be worth the fee he may have fetched from an eBay listing, Wheeler was afforded the opportunity to have a heartfelt exchange with the footy icon, which in itself can be considered priceless.