Lance Franklin has spoken publicly for the first time about his dramatic break from the AFL, saying it was the best decision he could have made.
The Sydney star will officially return to the club on Tuesday morning when he and the rest of the Swans senior players report for pre-season training.
Franklin missed Sydney’s three finals matches in September after deciding he needed time off for an unspecified mental health condition.
Predictably, Franklin’s time off sparked a flurry of rumours and also led to speculation that his high-profile AFL career might be over.
But Franklin, sporting a new-look haircut, told the Swans website on Monday that he was feeling much better and looking forward to the pre-season.
The Swans said last month that Franklin had already been training ahead of his official return to the club.
“Leading into the finals, I was really struggling – I put my hand up and said I needed help,” he said.
“I’m so glad I did it.
“I took some time away and it’s the best decision I’ve made.
“I’m so fortunate I did it.”
He said the last three months had been hard, but he is feeling much better.
“I’m feeling healthy, happy and I just got back from a nice holiday overseas,” Franklin said.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into training.”
Franklin thanked fiance Jesinta Campbell, his family and the Swans for their support.
Asked about how hard it had been for the drama to be so public, Franklin replied: “It’s been extremely tough for myself, but the best thing I’ve done is put my hand up and get the help that I needed.
“If you are struggling, I’d definitely recommend that you ask for that help.
“It will change your life.”
And Franklin spoke of his enthusiasm about returning to football.
“I’m really excited to get out there,” he said.
“Day one of pre-season is tomorrow for me – I’m hungry to get back out there.
“Obviously missing the finals last year was tough (and) it was tough watching, not being there.
“But for me, it was more about getting myself right, getting my health back in order, getting back to being happy.”