Franklin was born in Perth to parents Ursula and Lance Franklin Sr. Sport runs through the family: Lance Sr. represented his state in Field Hockey; and older sister Bianca Giteau plays in the ANZ Championship for the Adelaide Thunderbirds and his cousin Jeff Garlett plays for Carlton. Franklin has Indigenous Australian heritage, which he continues to acknowledge with a tattoo of a tribal elder who gave him the name 'Buddy', and Aboriginal artwork of a kangaroo on his arm and participating in indigenous youth programs.
Franklin moved to Dowerin, Western Australia at an early age and attended Dowerin District High School from years one to ten and later attended Wesley College. He played one senior game for the Perth Football Club in 2004, kicking one goal, and represented Western Australia at the AFL National Under 18 Championships.
After attending Draft Camp and showing promise Hawthorn selected him with their second pick, number five overall, in the 2004 AFL Draft. Debuting in Round 1 of the 2005 season, Franklin had a strong presence up forward and played 20 out of 22 games, contributing 27 goals.
After injuring an ankle and a hand early in the 2006 season, he returned through the Victorian Football League for his first AFL game of the season in Round 9 against Sydney. In Round 12, Buddy produced a 6 goal haul against Richmond.
On 13 July 2006 "Buddy" signed a new two year deal with Hawthorn, after being linked with clubs such as Essendon, West Coast and Fremantle. Another bag of 6 late in the season prompted predictions of Franklin to be the next big name forward in the AFL.
Franklin in Round 18 in 2007 against Essendon. In Round 6 of the same year, Buddy kicked 9 goals against the Bombers, in which the Hawks won by 63 points.
In the 2007 season Franklin finished the home and away season with 63 goals, putting him third in the Coleman medal tally behind runner up Matthew Pavlich of Fremantle and the eventual Coleman medalist Jonathan Brown of Brisbane. Franklin's tally included 9 goals in Hawthorn's win against Essendon in round 6. However, in Round 21 against the Western Bulldogs, Lance kicked a record 11 behinds with his 2 goals. Only Jack Titus and St Kilda's Dave McNamara have kicked more behinds in a game without managing more than 2 goals. However, despite Franklin's inaccuracy, Hawthorn still won the match. In the 1st elimination final of 2007, the Hawks mounted a big comeback in the second half against Adelaide. Big "Buddy" was instrumental in the win, kicking 7 goals on his finals debut including the winning goal, from outside 50 metres with just 7 seconds left on the clock. Hawthorn were eliminated out of the Finals the following week by North Melbourne.
Franklin finished the season with one bag of 9 goals and 7 goals (against Adelaide in the Elimination Final), as well as four bags of five goals or more. He came equal third in the club's Best and Fairest, and was the leading goalkicker for Hawthorn.
Buddy brought up his first ton in 2008, becoming the first person to kick 100 goals in season in a decade.
2008 saw Franklin establish himself as one of the elite players in the competition, and was the recipient of the Coleman Medal with 102 goals in the home-and-away season. His season-high of 9 goals came against Essendon in round 11. Buddy also played for the Dream Team, kicking 4 goals, in the AFL Hall of Fame Tribute Match.
Franklin kicked his 100th goal for the home-and-away season against Carlton in round 22, becoming the first to kick 100 goals in the AFL home-and-away season since Tony Lockett in 1998, and the first Hawthorn player since Jason Dunstall in 1996, to reach 100 goals in a season. Upon him reaching the milestone, several thousand supporters stormed the field and formed a massive huddle around Franklin, who was shortly ushered off the field into the change rooms until the ground had cleared. Prior to the match, the AFL had warned of a $6000 fine for every individual who jumped the fence; evidently this was not a concern for the thousands who did just that. He also was the first Aboriginal player to achieve this. He then added to that by kicking another eight goals in the qualifying final against the Western Bulldogs, tying with Dermott Brereton for the most goals kicked by a Hawthorn player in a finals match. Hawthorn went on to win the Grand Final and the Premiership, and while Franklin did not play a large part in the Grand Final, he received the Peter Crimmins Medal (Hawthorn's best and fairest) a week later for his consistent and high-level season.
“ Franklin’s a physical freak. He’s probably the player I most enjoy going to watch. ” —Leigh Matthews, Hawthorn Great and 4-time premiership coach
Franklin missed the 2009 NAB Cup after undergoing surgery on his thumb and his shoulder following Hawthorn's premiership. On his return to senior football his form has fallen well short of his 2008 performances. He played his 100th game in Round 19 of the 2009 AFL season against St Kilda at Hawthorn's second home, Aurora Stadium in Tasmania. During the game, one of Franklin's teeth fell off during a marking contest between the forward and Zac Dawson.
After Round 21 2009, Franklin was suspended for two games as a result of a hip and shoulder against Richmond player Ben Cousins. The Hawks appealed the decision, but failed. As a result, Franklin missed the Hawks' final home-and-away match against the Essendon Bombers, which the Hawks lost and therefore missed out the finals, causing Buddy to miss Round 1, 2010.
After a disappointing year for the superstar, and to Hawthorn, the team got off to a positive start in 2010, downing Richmond down at Aurora Stadium in the first round of the NAB Cup. During the first quarter, Franklin slotted three goals out of his five which he kicked during the night.
Without Franklin for its round one match against Melbourne, Hawthorn won comfortably by more than 50 points before losing its next six matches in succession. Franklin was suspended again against Collingwood in round 4 and also missed the round 7 clash against West Coast but since his return has shown glimpses of his brilliant form which included five goals against North Melbourne and Essendon in round five and six respectively. Franklin was back to his best in Round 9, against Carlton at Etihad Stadium, in which he led Hawthorn to a convincing 50 point win. He contributed with 5 goals. He showed glimpses of his 2008 form and looks to have got his goal kicking form back as he is now averaging more than 3 goals a game in his career, 106 games for 324 goals. However in Round 10, Franklin was suspended for the third time in eight matches for a head-high bump on Sydney defender Martin Mattner.
In Round 13, just before the mid-year break, Lance Franklin effectively dragged Hawthorn over the line for a win against their arch-rival, Essendon. He kicked five goals for the match, but his two last ones were the standout highlights. The first one of which 'Buddy' retrieved the football from team-mate Jordan Lewis near the wing and sprinted quickly along the boundary line towards goal, before kicking a bouncing ball through for a goal from 50 metres out at a tight angle. His fifth and final goal for the night was nothing short of extraordinary; Franklin ran up the ground towards the back half and again retrieved the ball. He then ran quickly towards the goal along the boundary line, but this time, his shot for goal was much tighter. However, he still slotted the goal, sparking his team-mates, who were able to respond to the challenge by the Bombers. Franklin ended up with 26 disposals and 10 marks, making him the "Man of the Match". The win left Hawthorn in the top 8, with its win-loss ratio at 7–6. Alastair Clarkson, the Hawthorn coach, later said: He was pretty special. Those goals from the boundary were unbelievable stuff. He played consistently well right throughout the course of the game.
Round 17 against St Kilda saw Lance Franklin playing well after coming back from an ankle injury which has sidelined him the previous week against Brisbane. He kicked 5 goals, his best against the Saints. Despite his performance, the Saints forced a draw during the final seconds of the match, resulting in both teams sharing the 4 points.
In the last round of the home and away season, Round 22, Lance Franklin kicked 6 goals against Collingwood, helping the Hawks clinch a 3-point come-from-behind victory against the minor-premiers. It was the first time he kicked more than 5 goals since 2008. On 13 September Buddy's memorable goal in Round 13 against Essendon was chosen as the Goal of the Year, as well as being picked for the All-Australian team.
After a moderately good year in 2010, Hawthorn started off 2011 with a loss to Adelaide which saw Franklin play only a minor role in the match. The next three rounds saw the Hawks begin to show their premiership form as they beat Melbourne, Richmond and West Coast. In Round 8 at the SCG, Franklin kicked his 400th goal for Hawthorn in a 6 goal haul as the Hawks beat the Swans by 46 points. He continued his consistent goal kicking form for the remainder of the year, including a bag of 8 against Port Adelaide at the MCG in Round 21. By the end of the home and away season, Franklin had achieved his second John Coleman medal, despite spending a significant amount of time in the midfield.
Franklin was Hawthorn's sole target up forward in their Qualifying Final loss to Geelong, kicking 4 goals. However, in the fourth quarter, he landed heavily in a marking contest and hyper-extended his knee. While footage of the incident suggested possible damage to his ACL, scans later revealed that he had instead suffered bone bruising and bleeding. Nevertheless, most observers considered Franklin's season to be over. Remarkably, he returned the following week against Sydney, kicking 4 goals and playing a vital part in the Hawks' eventual win. Despite spending time in hospital with a virus in the lead-up, Franklin was a constant danger against Collingwood in the Preliminary Final. He kicked 3 goals, including a miraculous dribble from the forward pocket, which appeared to seal victory for the Hawks until Luke Ball snapped a late winner for the Magpies. Franklin was named the All-Australian full forward for his outstanding season.
Franklin struggled early in the season with inaccurate goal kicking, scoring 21 goals, 36 behinds in the first nine matches. He dramatically reversed his fortunes in Round 10 when he booted a career high 13 goals, 4 behinds, to assist in the demolition of North Melbourne in Launceston by 115 points.