Sydney Swans coach John Longmire says he jumped at the opportunity to lead the All Stars in next month’s State of Origin clash with Victoria – so important is the fight against the bushfires.
Longmire will take control of the All Stars in an exhibition match at Marvel Stadium on February 28, with funds dedicated to relief efforts and emergency assistance as well as rebuilding grassroots facilities.
The AFL ($1.35 million), the AFL Players’ Association ($250,000) and all 18 clubs ($900,000) have joined forces in a commitment totalling $2.5 million.
Longmire says he’s rapt to be in a position to support individuals and communities affected by the bushfires.
“There was no hesitation at all about coaching this team. First and foremost, it’s a wonderful cause and we’re fully supportive of it as a football club,” Longmire said.
“I’m thrilled to have a small part in trying to help people going through some really tough times. I don’t think there are many people who haven’t been touched or don’t know people who have been touched throughout the country in some way, shape or form. Everyone’s got a story about it, it’s so relatable and I’m no different to anyone else. To be able to help out is really important.”
February’s match will be the first of its kind since Victoria beat the Dream Team by 17 points in the 2008 Hall of Fame Tribute Match at the MCG.
Chris Judd, Steve Johnson, Matthew Pavlich and Andrew McLeod were among the host of stars selected for the 2008 fixture, and names like Patrick Dangerfield, Dustin Martin, Jack Riewoldt and Patrick Cripps are among those expected to suit up for next month’s edition.
Longmire has clear memories of the supreme team-lists of 2008 and hailed the concept of star-studded exhibition games.
“The last time Victoria played the All Stars I remember looking at the first centre bounce and on the wing it was Matthew Richardson versus Adam Goodes,” Longmire laughed.
“There are going to be match-ups like that all over the ground again this year. The opportunity to play with other great players from other clubs is a unique experience in our game and they really look forward to that. I was able to do it myself at times and it was a great thrill.”
One man who won’t make the cut for Longmire’s team is Lance Franklin after the star forward underwent knee surgery.
The four-time Coleman medallist is set for 10 weeks of rehabilitation after injuring his knee during a run on New Year’s Eve.
A young Franklin booted four goals for the Dream Team in the 2008 match.
Longmire said the seventh-greatest goal-kicker of all time would have loved to feature in February’s match, but he believes opting for surgery will set him up for a strong season.
“This game was one of the reasons Lance was disappointed about his injury,” Longmire said.
“He said it would have been a great thing to be a part of, so it’s unfortunate for Lance. He was absolutely flying before Christmas. He had done the most training he had ever done with us in that pre-Christmas period.
“We decided to have an operation done now and that gives him the opportunity to play the majority of the season, which is what we’re looking forward to.”