In 2002, John Longmire walked through the doors of the Sydney Swans as Assistant Coach. Twenty years later and 258 games as head coach, Longmire is just as enthusiastic about another season with the club as he was when he first started.
Speaking with 3AW Sportsday earlier this week, Longmire credits his longevity at the club to the staff and playing group around him.
“I’ve been really fortunate to be part of a terrific footy club, it’s been a terrific journey and one that continuously evolves,” Longmire said.
“I’ve never had any trouble jumping out of bed and going to work, it’s a great environment at the club. I work with a terrific board and executive, as well as a fantastic group of coaches and players. I’m loving the job, and really enjoying the thrill of trying to bring another group through and hoping to be competitive once again.
"I get great joy out of watching 18-year-old kids turn up every year to begin their AFL journey. It’s a real privilege to be a part of that.”
The Swans went from registering five wins in 2020, to 15 wins in 2021, but Longmire isn’t buying into any discussion of the ultimate success.
“We don’t underestimate how hard it is (to win a premiership)," Longmire said.
"It’s so tough to get there, to climb the premiership mountain. Everyone wants to do it every year, everyone is focusing on improvement.
"We feel like we still have a fair way to go, and whilst we improved last year and we saw some really good signs and improvement in our younger players, it doesn’t automatically mean you get the right to continually improve.
"You still have to earn that right, and that’s what we’re about this year – working hard to earn the right to keep getting better.”
As season 2022 approaches, the Swans welcomed a new face to the senior leadership group last week, with Callum Mills taking over the reigns from Josh Kennedy, joining Luke Parker and Dane Rampe as co-captain.
“In a lot of ways he’s everything you want in a leader,” Longmire said of Callum Mills.
“He’s a massive competitor, he loves winning, he drives really high standards and he’s got a good life balance as well.
"Callum has been fortunate to learn from some great leaders before him including Josh Kennedy who’s been a wonderful captain for this club. He’s part of that next generation of leaders that will be expected to take a fair bit of the load of our performance from week to week.”
The first challenge the Swans will face in season 2022 will be a huge Sydney Derby Round One clash.
There's plenty of excitement around the fixture to be played at Accor Stadium, following the Swans on the road for the majority of their 2021 campaign meaning limited games in front of a Sydney crowd.
There is also extra interest with Lance Franklin edging closer to the historic 1000 goal milestone.
The incredible achievement is not lost on Longmire, but he admits the focus is on keeping the 35-year-old star forward fit for the season ahead.
“It is session by session with Lance, but he’s going really well at the moment," Longmire said.
"It would be a wonderful achievement, but there’s a bit of water to go under the bridge yet and still a few weeks until Round One. It would be a wonderful achievement, there’s no stepping back from that, it’s an amazing effort.”