Coaches set aside friendship for AFL final
Sydney Swans coach John Longmire (Slattery Images)
John Longmire thought he’d be back on the farm. Alastair Clarkson joked he might be in a mental institution.
But when they met as teenaged players at North Melbourne in 1987, neither man could have predicted this in his wildest dreams.
The long-time friends and former teammates are rival coaches in Saturday’s AFL grand final.
Clarkson is on the verge of his second premiership in charge of Hawthorn, while Longmire has been superb since taking over from Paul Roos in Sydney’s coaching succession plan.
There have been one or two awkward moments over the years when the rival coaches shake hands at the end of the grand final.
But these two will have no trouble showing each other respect once the premiership is decided.
“It’s been a great story, the Longmire story, and one that I’ve obviously shared with him for a fair bit of the time,” Clarkson said.
“Jobs are so hard to secure at AFL level, it’s hard enough to think we’d be coaching against each other, let alone coaching against one another in a grand final.
“I’m sure there will be someone shattered tomorrow night and someone obviously overwhelmed with the victory.
“At some point in time over the next few weeks we’ll get together and have a quiet ale and enjoy the fact we’ve been up against each other in an AFL grand final.”
Longmire met Clarkson on North Melbourne’s infamous trip to London in 1987, when they played Carlton in the exhibition match that became known as The Battle Of Britain.
Clarkson enraged the Blues when he broke Ian Aitken’s jaw.
A decade later, as their playing careers were ending, Clarkson and Longmire had key roles in the evolution in the AFL players’ association.
Then came coaching and now they are on the verge of another premiership.
Clarkson has his 2008 flag as Hawthorn coach, plus he was an assistant when Port Adelaide won their first premiership in 2004.
Longmire played in North’s 1999 premiership team and was an assistant coach under Roos for Sydney’s drought-breaking 2005 success.
“Whether it’s mates or whatever, you try to find a little bit extra and I’m sure Clarko will be trying to find a little bit extra our way,” Longmire said.
“We are good mates, we’ve known each other for a long time, but it doesn’t change anything in regards to our preparation.
“Both of us will be trying to beat each other tomorrow and that’s the way it should be.”© AAP 2013
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