Sydney Swans coach John Longmire loves November – and that’s because travelling from state to state to meet a host of potential draftees is one of his great joys.
It remains to be seen where in the country Sydney will find pick five at the 2019 AFL Draft – as well as selections 25, 32, 44 and 81 – but there’s every chance a future Swan has in recent weeks met his future coach.
“I enjoy the process,” Longmire told Melbourne radio station SEN.
“Fortunately (Manager – Recruiting and List Strategy) Kinnear Beatson gets me involved. It’s one of the great things about coaching. I don’t get to go down every year because other things can bob up, but when I do get the opportunity to go down and meet the young blokes I really enjoy it. I love seeing the young kids come through and seeing where they go in their careers.”
The Swans haven’t secured a player with pick five since selecting recently retired icon Jarrad McVeigh at the 2002 AFL Draft.
The fact he played 325 AFL games, co-captained the club, won two Club Champion awards, was named an All Australian and was selected in the greatest NSW team of all time gives Sydney fans reason to be excited.
Is someone somewhere in Australia about to pull on a Sydney jumper and eventually leave the club in the same vein as McVeigh?
There’s a long list of emerging stars already sporting Sydney colours, including Will Hayward, Oliver Florent, Ben Ronke and Ryley Stoddart.
The promising quartet were among the second- to fifth-year players who returned for pre-season training at Moore Park’s Lakeside Oval on Monday.
Longmire is confident his young team is tracking in the right direction, but he insists plenty of hard work lies ahead.
“When you’ve got the emerging young players that we do there’s plenty to be excited about,” Longmire said.
“Tommy McCartin has played 34 games and he’s still a teenager. This year James Rowbottom came on and obviously Nick Blakey is a real talent to add to that.
“But we know we’ve got a fair bit of work to do as well. This year was the first time Luke Parker missed finals after 195 games. We need to make sure we’re working hard to give our players the opportunity to play finals again. While we’re really excited about those emerging players coming through, we’re not shying away from the fact that we need to do a fair bit of work.”
Star forward Lance Franklin cut his holiday short to make a surprise return to pre-season training with the younger Swans on Monday.
The four-time Coleman medallist underwent minor surgery on his ankle and glute during the off-season and tackled a series of running repetitions at the Lakeside Oval hit-out.
Although Franklin’s early return stunned many, Longmire was not among the surprised.
“He’s very invested,” Longmire said.
“He loves working with the younger blokes and he’s feeling good and getting stronger. We’re confident he will be on the training track for full training before Christmas, which is a great sign. He just wants to get himself in the best possible condition, which is great for him and also the young blokes when they turn up and see him running around.”