Sydney Swans coach John Longmire tonight appeared on AFL: On The Couch, speaking with Gerard Healy, Jason Dunstall and Jason Brown.
He fielded questions on the start to the season, Kieren Jack, Aliir Aliir and Dane Rampe, as well as managing expectations and evolving as a coach.
As expected, with questions over Kieren's performances in recent weeks, Gerard Healy asked John if he had any news.
Unsurprisingly, John confirmed what most people thought about Jack, that he was rushed back early and has been playing with an injury.
“Unfortunately Kieren's one of those players that had a pretty good pre-season, and got injured just before he was due to play in the JLT series with a crook hip.
“He wasn’t able to get any games under his belt and we’ve been playing him now for five weeks, and its not getting any better.
“Its getting worse so he needs a couple of weeks off and hopefully some rest and recovery over the next few weeks.
“We’ll be able to get him back into good form and get him fit and firing for the rest of the season”.
Unfortunately, he hasn't looked particularly fit so far this season, so the calls to cut him from the team and force him into retirement were premature to say the least.
When asked about Aliir and what he needs to do to get back into the team, Longmire said that he needs to get his confidence back in the NEAFL, and that when he's ready, the club will back him in to perform.
“Unfortunately he suffered a turfed toe in the pre-season and it cost him 12 weeks of his pre-season, and that was the last thing he needed off the back of his performance last year when he had a fantastic pre-season, and great form in our reserves before we played him.
“We played him the Bulldogs game after we lost Rampe, and we played him a bit earlier than what we would have liked as he wasn’t quite in that consistent defensive and offensive form that we would have liked.
“That's the reason why he went out of the team last week and we thought Melican came in and did a good job, but we’re really confident that he can come back in and play well for us”.
Gerard Healy finished off the interview on a lighter note, amongst laughs from the panel and John himself, asking Longmire what he must have said underneath his hand over his mouth, when he heard about Rampe falling over a chain, breaking his arm.
“I nearly fell off my chair to be honest Gerard, I had him in my office an hour before hand and we were talking about the Port Adelaide game from round 1.
“He went out of my office and within an hour the medicos were in my office saying that he’d fallen over a chain and broken his arm, and I actually thought they were joking when they first said it, but I could tell by the look on their faces that they weren’t”.
It was a good, honest and open interview. More of those would be great.
While most of the footy world celebrated the Dogs historic win in 2016, the toll on the loser Sydney Swans was devastating, and despite an injury list that provides a genuine alibi in 2017, the reality remains the Swans are winless after 5 rounds and coach John Longmire has been good enough to join us from the Sydney offices.
Welcome to you John
We wish you were on in better circumstances obviously John. Zero and five, its been a tough start to the season and we believe you’ve got some news on Kieren Jack, who’s been battling away himself
Unfortunately Kieren’s one of those players that had a pretty good pre-season and got injured just before he was due to play in the JLT series with a crook hip.
He wasn’t able to get any games under his belt and we’ve been playing him now for five weeks and its not getting any better.
Its getting worse so he needs a couple of weeks off and hopefully some rest and recovery over the next few weeks we’ll be able to get him back into good form and get him fit and firing for the rest of the season.
Horse its a real shock to the system to see the Swans 5 and 0. For some it was a shock to see Hawthorn at that stage until they got a win on the weekend. All of a sudden you’ve got a very different environment in the football club, which you haven’t had for so many years. How difficult is it managing player expectations and morale and those sorts of things
Yeah obviously the players aren’t happy, as the staff aren’t Jason.
We aren’t used to being in the position we’re in at the moment, being zero and five.
We’ve been obviously up the other end of the ladder and we’d like to be up there again, but acknowledging where we are is important and the areas we need to fix, which are quite a few at the moment, but more so having the faith in the team, the playing group, that we can get going again.
Getting that balance right from week to week is what we’ve been focusing on, and we believe its not far away but we clearly need to get going.
What parts of those games do you think you’ve seen the biggest drop offs so far this season
Its probably been a bit of everything.
There hasn’t been too many good parts to the game that we’ve been playing on short bursts.
We’ve been able to show some good footy, probably round 2 against the Bulldogs was probably our best game, but if you look at the contest, around the ball hasn’t been up to our usual standard and also the two way football that we normally play either with the ball, or without the ball.
The scoring differential is probably the two areas that stand out the most
Its probably difficult sometimes to sit back and evaluate sometimes as a coach, but did you see this coming in any way shape or form John
I guess after having so much experience coming off grand finals over the last few years, you need to make sure that particularly early in the season that you find a way to win.
I mean obviously you’re five weeks behind a lot of the teams and you need to make sure that in those early weeks you find a way to win.
We’ve seen that with the Bulldogs probably the last couple of weeks and you know they’re coming off the same break.
Clearly they’ve been able to even though they probably haven’t been happy with parts of their game, and first halves and different things like that, they’ve been able to find a way to win.
We’ve been in a couple of positions in the first five weeks in the last quarter, where we’ve been in front and we haven’t been able to find that way yet, and whether you’re an individual player or a team you need to be able to find it and we haven’t been able to do it yet.
John you demand a brutal attack on the ball as do most coaches, but the Swans appear to have done it over your tenure better than most over a long period of time. Are you concerned given the drop offs in the likes of Hannebery and Parkers’ output this early part of the season, that its taking a physical toll
Well its the standards required to play a regular AFL finals footy Gerard, and we’ve been able to do that on a consistent basis.
We’re clearly behind the eight ball on that area at this point.
You mentioned obviously Hanners [sic] and Parks [sic] that haven’t had a consistent run at it just yet in regards to form, you know there’s a few others in that boat as well. We’re confident they can get back into that form, but its clearly no shying away from the fact that we haven’t been great in that area of the ground.
Horse we saw some fascinating footage at half time just before the players came off the ground. Josh Kennedy is the new captain, you’ve got plenty of experience, you’ve got stars there, yet it was Callum Mills who is only a 2nd year player that was addressing all the players
Yeah Jason we see that as a really positive thing for the footy club.
I mean Josh has been fantastic as a captain in pretty tough circumstances starting the season at zero and five, but he’s been sensational leading the group working through trying to come up with answers.
Clearly we haven’t got the results on the board but we’re confident that he’s leading the group in the right way.
Its also about we’ve got a few of the leaders on the injured list at the moment and being able to pass the baton around and give others a bit of a chance to doing the heavy lifting, like a Callum Mills, even though he’s only in his 2nd year, Zak Jones, those guys, is a real benefit to the footy club.
Whether you’re a 2nd year player or a 10 year player, you need to be able to take your turn and Callum is certainly good at it.
John we were just talking a moment ago about coaches evolving and changing, whether they be under pressure like a Hinkley or Hardwick, or at the top of their game like Chris Scott and Don Pyke, do you need to change
Oh, always changing King, there’s absolute beliefs in what you need to do to be able to prepare the team, and over the first month we’ve probably had 9 to 10 different players from our grand final team running out every week.
One of the challenges we’ve clearly had, and we haven’t been as good as we’d like to be, is making sure that the group in its entirety plays the competitive football that we need to, and we haven’t been up to scratch with that even though its been a completely different group.
We haven’t played the same brand of football that we’d like and clearly thats our responsibility as coaches and players to be able to get that right
What about the actual method of play. I suppose thats more specifically where I’m going, I think you’re right with the numbers on the track were a problem in the pre-season and some of your stars have been down, but what about the mode and the method of your play
Well the mode and method hasn’t been up to what we normally do.
I mean if you look at for our mode and method, if we’re doing the things we normally do and still wasn’t winning us games, I think its a fair point and we’d certainly be looking at changing that regardless of the scoreboard.
We haven’t been doing what we would like to do and I think whether its transition football, whatever team you’re playing against, they like to get their transition part right and the contested part of the game.
Those areas are key areas regardless of tactic moves and manoeuvres, and we need to make sure that thats the foundation of our game for getting the game going forward regardless of whats happening from a tactical sense
Horse you’ve obviously invested big chunks of your salary cap in Franklin and Tippett, which has been quite public. Does that present challenges around list management, especially retaining and getting players into the club. You’ve lost the living away from home allowance [sic] as well, what challenges does that present going forward
I think the whole free agency systems [sic] changed the whole market place, if you like Browny [sic], and the old 3 year contracts are now 5 year contracts.
Things have changed now.
If you look at the team we had last year, clearly we lost Tom Mitchell and that was disappointing, but we understood the reasons why Tom went and we look at the list we’ve got at the moment.
We’ve been really pleased to able to keep Isaac Heeney, and Callum Mills and these guys on long term contracts.
We’ve got a number of our core senior group signed up on a longer term and we’re confident we can keep the players we want to like any team, but that doesn’t mean we’re bullet proof either with regards to losing players we want to keep
How is buddy going, looks like he’s quite healthy moving around the field looking a million bucks. How is his health
He’s going pretty well Browny [sic], he’s going well.
He’d like to get his defensive aspect up a bit higher in his game, that’s generally been a pretty good sign for him hitting the scoreboard as in any key forward, and getting the chases and tackles up around the mark.
He’s going pretty well and we’re hoping that we can get some help in that forward half pretty shortly
Horse, for the best part of eight or ten years, its been Ted Richards and Heath Grundy rock solid in defence. Richards is gone and Grundy getting towards the end, although he’s still such an important player for you. You’ve got to prepare for life after Grundy. I see melican made his debut on the weekend, and Aliir was left out. What are the areas that you obviously think he needs to work on to get back in
Aliir we’re really obviously rapt with what he was able to last year.
Unfortunately he suffered a turfed toe in the pre-season and it cost him 12 weeks of his pre-season.
That was the last thing he needed off the back of his performance last year when he had a fantastic pre-season, and great form in our reserves before we played him.
He was then able to have the confidence levels to be able to sustain quality football in the senior team, and he hasn’t had that preparation to this point.
So we played him the Bulldogs game after we lost Rampe, and we played him a bit earlier than what we would have liked, as he wasn’t quite in that consistent defensive and offensive form that we would have liked, and thats the reason why he went out of the team last week.
We thought Melican came in and did a good job, but we’re really confident that he can come back in and play well for us
One last one from me mate, just want to talk about Sam Reid. I think the clubs invested heavily in him. He’s missed a lot of footy through injury just seems to be striking some good consistent form the first time I’ve seen that for a long time, yet everyones talking about him being hot property on the free agency market. You kind of feel he owes something to Sydney surely
Well, missing last year was terrible for him, the whole 12 months and he’s one that had a really good pre-season.
I think we’re seeing the benefits of that now and we’d like him to stay.
We clearly want him to stay, obviously we understood the reasons why he wanted to put the contracts to one side and just get back to playing football, he hadn’t played for 12 months. We’re really hopeful that he will stay and we’re confident he’ll stay
John I think you’re probably infamous for the hand over the mouth when you’re giving some feedback. What did you say underneath the hand underneath the mouth when Dane Rampe had fallen over a chain and broken his arm
I nearly fell off my chair to be honest Gerard, I had him in my office an hour before hand and we were talking about the Port Adelaide game from round 1.
He went out of my office and within an hour the medicos were in my office saying that he’d fallen over a chain and broken his arm.
I actually thought they were joking when they first said it, but I could tell by the look on their faces that they weren’t.
He’s an important player for us and we need him back. He’s running and he’s looking good at the moment and we’ll hopefully get him back before the bye
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