Sydney Swans coach John Longmire says Friday’s heart-stopping victory over Essendon made for an invaluable learning experience for his young charges.
The absence of experienced campaigners Lance Franklin, Jarrad McVeigh, Heath Grundy, Nick Smith, Harry Cunningham and Daniel Menzel saw Sydney front Essendon with just six 100-game footballers compared to the opposition’s 11.
Josh Kennedy, Kieren Jack, Luke Parker, Dane Rampe, Sam Reid and Jake Lloyd were the only Swans on deck with 100 games’ worth of experience, with names like Oliver Florent, Will Hayward, Nick Blakey and Lewis Melican among the remainder of the fresh-faced team.
Longmire says it’s important for his young side to play in tight games like Friday’s five-point win over the Bombers.
“It’s always good to have close wins. It’s tough when you lose those games, but when you win a really tight one like that the feeling in the rooms after is fantastic,” Longmire said.
“It was great for our younger players to experience a close game like that, and there are some things we can still learn from those last few minutes which we’ll be talking to our younger players about, but the players felt sensational after the game.
“We only had six 100-gamers on Friday and Essendon had 11, so a lot of our players hadn’t had that experience of playing in a close game at AFL level. We’ll talk about it and show it on vision but the best way to train it is to actually live it – and Friday’s game gave them a pretty good taste of playing in a close game at AFL level."
If Sydney’s match with North Melbourne on Saturday night follows a similar script to the clubs’ most recent clash, the developing Swans are set for another nail-biter.
Rising Sydney defender Aliir Aliir snuck forward to snare a match-winning goal at the death in Round 17 last season , handing the Swans a six-point victory in the same night that star teammate Lance Franklin booted his 900th career goal.
Longmire said he expected another fierce battle in his side’s ensuing clash with the Roos in Tasmania.
“We know this week there’s another challenge,” Longmire said.
“North Melbourne had more scoring shots than the team on top of the ladder on the weekend, so we’ll get going again this week.”