Leigh Matthews, ever the pragmatist, has often said no matter how good any coach might be the odds are he will lose one game in every three.
It’s a most simplistic way of summarising one of the most complex and challenging roles in football.
One week in every three the coach, always the one to carry the heaviest burden, goes home shattered. He doesn’t sleep while wondering where he went wrong and what he can do to turn things around.
It’s a tough, tough caper.
So for John Longmire to have spent 19 years as a coach with the Sydney Swans – 10 as an assistant coach and nine as senior coach – is a truly remarkable effort.
On Saturday afternoon against the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba he will become the club’s longest-serving coach, taking charge of his 203rd game to go past 2005 premiership coach and his long-time mentor Paul Roos.
It is timely, then, to look at some of the facts and figures that summarise Longmire’s career.
First and foremost, he has coached 132 wins, two draws and 68 losses for a career success rate of 65.84 per cent. Not quite the simplistic Matthews mark of 66.67 per cent but close enough. And better than most.
Of the current AFL coaches, only Geelong’s Chris Scott at 69.90 per cent from 196 games and a 136-2-58 record has a better success rate.
More significantly, among all who have coached a minimum 80 games in AFL history Longmire ranks sixth best for win/loss ratio.
Chris Scott is best followed by John Coleman, Essendon coach 1961-67, at 68.80 per cent; Peter Pianto, Geelong coach 1966-70, at 67.14 per cent; Dick Reynolds, legendary Essendon captain-coach and coach from 1939-60, at 61.99 per cent; and Jock McHale, Collingwood coach from 1912-49 and the game’s all-time coaching leader, at 66.06 per cent.
If you stretch the qualification minimum to 60 games only South Melbourne’s 1933 premiership coach Jack Bisset, who was at the helm through the golden era of four consecutive grand finals from 1933-36, and Collingwood 1909-11 coach George Angus, slip in ahead of Longmire. Bissett has a remarkable 78.75 per cent record, and Angus 70.00%.
In eight completed seasons Longmire has never missed the finals, with a finishing record highlighted by the 2012 premiership in his second season that reads a most impressive 6-1-4-2-5-2-5-7.
Interestingly, he is one of five current coaches who have been in charge for nine years in a row. The others who have shared Longmire’s entire senior coaching journey as combatants are Chris Scott, Hawthorn’s Alastair Clarkson, North Melbourne’s Brad Scott and Richmond’s Damien Hardwick.
The other 13 clubs have had a combined 48 coaches in the Longmire era, headed by Adelaide (6), Melbourne (6), Essendon (5) and Western Bulldogs (5).
With 20 finals on his resume, Longmire has coached as many or more finals than all current coaches except one – Clarkson (26). Ross Lyon (20) is level with his former Swans assistant-coaching colleague, ahead of Essendon’s John Worsfold (18), Chris Scott (15) and West Coast’s Adam Simpson (9).
And with 10 finals wins he is second only to Clarkson (16) and ahead of Lyon (9 wins, 1 draw), Worsfold (7), Chris Scott (6), Simpson (6), Hardwick (4), Brad Scott (4) and Beveridge (4).
Longmire, a 200-game champion full forward at North Melbourne from 1988-99 who spent two years in player management before deciding he wanted to coach, has worked out of a multitude of offices and with more people than he can probably remember during his time at the SCG.
Having started at Sydney in 2002 under senior coach Rodney Eade, Longmire soon found himself working under Paul Roos after the club transitioned in Round 13 that year. It was the beginning of a partnership that turned into a masterful succession plan.
In 10 years as assistant-coach, Longmire shared his duties on the senior panel with 10 others: Roos (2002), Steve Malaxos (2002-03), Peter Jonas (2003-06), Lyon (2004-06), Brett Allison (2007-09), Peter Berbakov (2007-10), John Blakey (2007-10), Mark Stone (2009-10), Daniel McPherson (2009-10) and Stuart Dew (2010).
Since taking charge in 2011 he has had 14 different assistants on his own senior coaching panel (which does not include NEAFL and development coaches): Blakey (2011-19), Jared Crouch (2011-15), Dew (2011-17), Henry Playfair (2001-17), Mark Stone (2011), George Stone (2012-13), Leigh Tudor (2011-13), Martin Mattner (2014), Josh Francou (2015-17), Brett Kirk (2016-19), Dean Cox (2018-19), Steve Johnson (2018-19), Rhyce Shaw (2018) and Tadhg Kennelly (2019).
In 202 AFL games as senior coach so far, Longmire has played 83 players – and 36 of them have never experienced AFL football under anyone else.
Josh Kennedy has played most games under Longmire at 196, followed by Heath Grundy (186), Nick Smith (182), Dan Hannebery (180), Kieren Jack (179), Luke Parker (179), Jarrad McVeigh (175), Dane Rampe (144), Ted Richards (128) and Sam Reid (126).
The Longmire senior coaching journey began 86 days after his 40th birthday in unlikely fashion – with a draw.
It was a Sunday afternoon, 27 March 2011, against Melbourne at the MCG. The Swans led at each change and by 14 points at three-quarter time but had to be content with a share of the points at 11.18 (84) apiece.
Brad Green had put the Demons two points up with 23 minutes and 46 seconds played in the final term before a Swans rushed behind and, finally, with 29:44 on the clock, a Ryan O’Keefe behind that could have completed a fairytale beginning.
Instead Longmire had to be content with a place in history – he was just the second coach ever to begin his career with a draw. The only person to do so before him was the Brisbane Lions’ Roger Merrett in 1998 after he had replaced John Northey mid-season before handing the job to the aforementioned Leigh Matthews.
O’Keefe (31) topped Sydney’s possession count in Longmire’s first game as senior coach from McVeigh (22), Grundy (21) and Kieren Jack (21). Ben McGlynn and Jude Bolton kicked two goals apiece and in the Brownlow Medal votes Melbourne’s Brent Moloney (2) split O’Keefe (3) and McGlynn (1).
The first player to make his debut under Longmire was South Australian Byron Sumner, who had been drafted from Woodville-West Torrens with pick #54 in the 2009 AFL Draft. It was his only game.
On the same day Sam Reid played his second game, and Andrejs Everitt his first Sydney Swans game after switching from the Western Bulldogs.
Longmire’s coaching journey has taken him to 16 different venues, including Wellington, New Zealand, where the Swans beat St Kilda in 2013. He has coached in every state and territory of Australia except the Northern Territory.
Of course he has coached most games at the SCG – 82 – for a 55-1-26 record.
Next on this list are the MCG (26 games), Marvel Stadium (25) and Stadium Australia (21). Then comes Subiaco in Perth (10), Kardinia Park in Geelong (7), Football Park in South Australia (5), the Gabba in Brisbane (5), Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast (5), Sydney Showgrounds (5), Adelaide Oval (5), Hobart’s Bellerive Oval (2), York Park in Launceston (1) and Manuka Oval in Canberra (1).
Particularly impressive is his away record against Geelong. He’s 4-3 at a venue where the Cats have been next to invincible over the past decade.
Significantly too, he is unbeaten in Queensland at 10-0, is 9-1 in South Australia and is unbeaten in Tasmania at 3-0.
Swans fans will be desperately hoping Longmire’s perfect record in the Sunshine State is intact Saturday night.
Trivia question: If Josh Kennedy, Heath Grundy, Nick Smith, Dan Hannebery, Kieren Jack, Luke Parker, Jarrad McVeigh, Dane Rampe, Ted Richards and Sam Reid head the games played list under Longmire, can you name the other 73 in any sort of order?
They are Jake Lloyd (121), Lance Franklin (113), Harry Cunningham (110), Lewis Jetta (107), Rhyce Shaw (98), Craig Bird (97), Gary Rohan (97), Adam Goodes (96), Isaac Heeney (86), Nick Malceski (84), Mike Pyke (84), Zak Jones (79), George Hewett (77), Ryan O’Keefe (77), Kurt Tippett (74), Jude Bolton (68), Tom Papley (66), Tom Mitchell (65), Callum Sinclair (64), Jeremy Laidler (61), Callum Mills (61), Shane Mumford (58), Dean Towers (57), Martin Mattner (55), Alex Johnson (47), Lewis Roberts-Thomson (46), Andrejs Everitt (43), Will Hayward (43), Ollie Florent (38), Aliir Aliir (34), Nic Newman (31), Jesse White (31), Brandon Jack (28), Sam Naismith (28), Harry Marsh (25), Dan Robinson (25), Lewis Melican (23), Ben Ronke (23), Tadhg Kennelly (19), Tom McCartin (19), Tony Armstrong (15), Tom Derickx (13), Robbie Fox (13), Jed Lamb (12), Mitch Morton (12), Toby Nankervis (12), Xavier Richards (12), Mark Seaby (12), Trent Dennis-Lane (11), Jordan Dawson (10), James Rose (9), Paul Bevan (7), Shane Biggs (6), Jordan Foote (6), Matthew Spanger (6), Nick Blakey (5), Tommy Walsh (5), Ryan Clarke (4), Colin O’Riordan (4), Jackson Thurlow (4), Brett Meredith (3), Jarred Moore (3), Nathan Gordon (2), Lewis Johnston (2), James Rowbottom (2), Ryley Stoddart (2), Darcy Cameron (1), Jack Hiscox (1), Justin McInerney (1), Tim Membrey (1), Byron Sumner (1), Michael Talia (1).