MELBOURNE - Lance Franklin didn't want to rain on Hawthorn's premiership party yesterday by spelling it out, but it appears inevitable he's leaving.
As with Gary Ablett's 2010 move from Geelong to Gold Coast, an AFL heavyweight club at the height of its power is set to lose its biggest star to a cashed-up expansion club.
Franklin, looking weary after a big night of celebrating with his premiership teammates, was flanked by TV cameras and reporters as he boarded the team bus after yesterday's family day at Glenferrie Oval.
``Monday or Tuesday,'' he said to reporters, when questioned on whether he was set to join wooden spooners Greater Western Sydney on a big-money long-term deal, adding: ``I'm with my boys baby.''
Earlier, after the team was briefly presented to a crowd of more than 22,000, Franklin lingered on stage, clapping his hands above his head in what seemed a pointed farewell gesture.
Tomorrow appears the more likely day for Franklin to announce his decision, given the Hawks' public celebrations will continue today in Tasmania.
The entire premiership team will be presented on stage at Launceston's Aurora Stadium, along with appearances by club representatives in Hobart and Devonport.
Hawks legend Leigh Matthews is confident the AFL premiers can thrive without their two-time Coleman Medallist and two-time premiership player.
``They've played very well when he hasn't played, that's the great thing,'' Matthews said on Channel Seven's Game Day.
``Clearly they want to keep him.
``But Jobe Watson would be a greater loss for Essendon, for instance.
''(Joel) Selwood would probably be a greater loss for Geelong.
``They don't look like they're as dependent on a Franklin as maybe they were a few years ago.''
Franklin's expected departure will also free up substantial salary cap room for the Hawks to continue their recent pattern of smart recruiting from their rivals.
The Hawks demonstrated their lack of dependence on Franklin during this year's finals.
He missed their first final through suspension and kicked just a goal per game in the preliminary and grand finals.
Six other Hawks kicked more goals during the finals, most notably 21-year-old Jack Gunston, the clear leader with 11 majors, including a match-winning four-goal grand final haul.
Not that Gunston was keen to farewell his attacking colleague.
``I've learnt a lot from him over my two years here and I love playing every game with him and we work in really well as a forward line,'' he said.