Longmire’s achievements under the radar

By , 19 Sep 2012

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    In typical John Longmire fashion, his achievement in guiding Sydney to the cusp of this year’s AFL grand final has been understated.

    Longmire-like understated.

    The 41-year-old is a man who can play a straight bat with the best of them.

    “It’s about concentrating on our processes and making sure we get our training right, our meetings right,” Longmire said ahead of his side’s preliminary final against Collingwood.

    He’s The Bizzaro Kevin Sheedy.

    But it’s become apparent this season he’s quite an effective coach, while grabbing none of the attention afforded to the likes of Brenton Sanderson.

    Of all the men to mentor the Swans since South Melbourne relocated to Sydney in 1982, only Tom Hafey has a better record.

    His charges, written off by most as a team capable of making up the numbers in September and little more, find themselves one win away from the grand final.

    Not that Longmire is contemplating it.

    “I don’t think about it. All I put my energies into is thinking about what we can control as coaches and players.

    “I don’t get too focused on the what ifs.”

    Longmire is well versed in preliminary final disappointment, he lost three as a player.

    But there is a what if worth pondering.

    Last year Chris Scott became the first AFL/VFL coach since Alan Joyce in 1988 to win a premiership in his first year.

    Longmire could win a flag in his second year as head coach.

    It shapes as an interesting pub debate, whose achievement would be greater?

    Scott inherited a team of champions, while Longmire has overseen immense team development and individual improvement from a host of players including Ted Richards, Kieren Jack, Lewis Jetta, Josh Kennedy and Mike Pyke.

    He’s also extended the team-first culture that was perfected by Paul Roos, which is no surprise.

    Longmire’s coaching journey dates back to 1988, when he started a career with North Melbourne that would tally 200 games and – in his swansong – a premiership.

    He won the Colman Medal as a 19-year-old, kicking 98 goals.

    Despite such success as a teenager, the trademark swagger of so many great forwards of his time was absent – on and off the field.

    He was more of a “sensible bloke who made smart decisions and didn’t let his hair down too much” as former Kangaroos coach Denis Pagan said in a recent interview.

    His sensibility has only increased while being groomed by Roos.

    In the pre-season he spoke candidly of his hopes and desires for 2012.

    It was uncomplicated and boiled down to this: only one AFL club is content at the end of a season and he wants it to be the Swans this year.

    His dedication has been unwavering and at a constantly high level – whether it be plotting Greater Western Sydney’s downfall or working out Adam Goodes’ best role in the team.

    “There’s not too many nights that aren’t sleepless nights as a coach, even in January,” he said.

    “Just ask my wife.

    “You think about it all the time, all the coaches do.

    “You need to know when to switch on and switch off, sometimes I don’t quite get the switching off right. But I try hard.”

    Switching off has become even harder in September.

    Longmire admits preliminary finals outside Victoria are rare and an occasion to savour for clubs like his.

    But ultimately he’s happy to describe the grand-final playoff as `just another game’.

    “We understand the importance of the game, but you still … know you’ve got to prepare like you normally do.

    “If you do anything more – that means you’re not doing things as professionally as you should have been during the year.”

    It may not be sexy, but it’s hard to argue with his logic.

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